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Unions rally against Aware Super labour standards

Unions NSW 2 mins read

MEDIA RELEASE

Unions rally against Aware Super labour standards

 

Unions will rally outside Aware Super’s offices in Sydney today, demanding to know why the industry super fund is bankrolling notorious non-union contractors to construct a five tower, 834 unit apartment complex in Manhattan, using hundreds of millions of dollars of Australian workers’ retirement savings.

 

AWARE SUPER Protest 

WHEN: 10am, Tuesday 26 March 2024

WHERE: Aware Super, 388 George Street Sydney

WHO: Unions NSW, CFMEU, Public Service Association, Health Services Union joined by US trade union leader, Bruce Raynor

CONTACT: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032

 

The $1 billion dollar development of 1 Java Street is a joint venture between Lendlease and Aware Super, a $160 billion industry super fund that manages the retirement savings of more than 1.1 million teachers, nurses, firefighters, paramedics and other essential workers.

 

Unions NSW first alerted Aware Super's leadership to serious concerns about labour standards on the project in May 2022. These concerns came from New York construction unions and included:

  • The use of contractor, RNC, whose owner Richard Tonys, served 11 months in prison for tax evasion from defrauding a union pension fund, and avoiding social security taxes for its use of non-union workers. In 2014 the Carpenters and Ironworkers won a $6 million out of court settlement from RNC.

  • Gotham Drywall a company that uses 18 shell companies, has a history of unionbusting and was subject to a wage theft lawsuit in 2019.

  • The use of underpaid, undertrained contact workers who earn less than the prevailing industry wage.

Aware Super and Lendlease promised Australian unions - who nominate members to its board - it would conduct an audit of labour practices to show compliance with modern slavery and ESG principles. After delaying and obfuscating, Aware management now claims the audit of its labour practices is ‘commercial in confidence’ and won’t release the document.

 

“Aware Super loves to burnish its cuddly ESG values when it is trying to recruit or retain essential workers to its fund,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW. But when asked pretty basic questions about labour practices, it runs for the hills.

 

“Super funds like Aware need to realise they can’t speak with a forked tongue. They can’t pretend to care about social housing or carbon emissions but then turn a blind eye to poor labour practices.

 

“All we are seeking is basic answers. ESG is all about transparency. Despite committing to an audit of labour practices, Aware now wants to keep the results under wraps. Why?

 

“Australian workers will rightly be appalled to learn their retirement savings are bankrolling anti-worker firms whose owners have been jailed for defrauding the US pensions funds and avoiding social security taxes. If the shoe was on the other foot, and members of Aware Super were being dudded by bad bosses, the Fund’s executive leadership would rightly be appalled.

 

“While union appointed directors of Aware are legally prevented from discussing board matters, I imagine they are seething about this episode. We are confident they are holding executives to account. But those executives need to explain themselves publicly.”

 

Contact: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032 

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