Building best practice governance

MEAA has strict policies, processes and procedures in place to ensure it maintains best practice union governance.


MEAA seeks to be as transparent as possible in all our dealings. Our annual report is best practice within the union movement. Our reporting guidelines are consistent with – and in some cases, in advance of – requirements under the Fair Work Act.

MEAA is structured on both sectional (industry/professional) and branch (geographical) lines. Member representatives are elected to our governing bodies as representatives of sections and branches as well as on a national basis to federal offices.

The 2014 Federal Council adopted the final stages of our governance changes, including:

• the use of merit selection of senior staff in place of elected officers of federal secretary and branch secretaries (now known as the chief executive and regional directors),
• merger of the Federal Executive and Federal Management Committee to form a Board.

The key governing body of MEAA is the Federal Council – elected members representing their colleagues across the country. They serve two-year terms. Read more about how we work.

The remaining positions of employed elected officers lapsed at the 2014-2015 biennial elections or, earlier, if the incumbent left the office.

For more information, read MEAA’s registered rules.

Strategic planning

The 2014 Federal Council adapted the strategic plan endorsed by the 2012 Council and this has continued to guide the work of the MEAA and has been the basis of reporting on activities to Council and to members through the Annual Report.

A new strategic plan was presented to the Federal Council in early-2016.

Reporting and disclosure to members

The annual report is the key tool for reporting and disclosure to members about financial and organisational matters. We continue to aim to make the report as comprehensive as possible. Read previous annual reports here.

We have established a program of governance training for all appropriate honorary officers and activists including federal councillors.

Policies, processes and procedures

Central to best-practice unionism is having clear and understood policies, processes and procedures.

We launched our first set of consolidated policies and procedures in 2001 and released versions in 2004 and 2006.

To ensure our processes are the best possible, MEAA is planning to benchmark its processes in the finance section against the International Standards Organisation. We are considering ways to run an ethical screen over these policies to ensure they encourage appropriate behaviour by all staff and officers.

As part of the review of processes, we are developing a new induction process for all new staff. As part of the governance review of our committees, we will develop an induction process for each committee including section and branch committees. This will include training in our procedures themselves.

How MEAA funds are handled

We continue to ensure MEAA has processes to ensure that union resources are used in a way that is transparent and accountable. Members have a right to be confident that the money they pay in membership fees is being spent appropriately.

Like all unions, MEAA operates under Australian law which provides for the tightest regulation of unions anywhere in the developed world. The law has a series of requirements about the rules of unions, to ensure democratic control of unions by members and financial accountability including annual independent audits.

MEAA seeks to operate within both the letter and the spirit of these laws. Specifically, we have processes to ensure that members can retain their confidence in how we operate.

Audits and reports

MEAA finances are independently audited within four months of the end of each financial year. The audit report is published in this annual report and made available before the end of November each year. Some aspects MEAA’s operations – such as payments to members of recovered payments – are subject to audit more frequently.

Our finance section prepares regular reports throughout the year that enable the board to review our income and our expenditure against our budgetary guidelines each month and each quarter.

Training and staff development

To ensure we have the skills to properly manage our finances, our financial controller is a qualified chartered accountant. We are investing in training for our other senior finance staff to ensure they all have appropriate advanced accounting skills.

Credit cards

Like most similar organisations, we use credit cards issued in the name of specific staff to pay for costs they necessarily incur in carrying out their duties for the MEAA. As an organisation, we will also use these cards to pay various bills, particularly on-line payments that require credit cards. There are many costs we incur that can only conveniently be paid with credit cards.

Each month, each card-holder is required to explain any charges they have made on their card and provide appropriate documentation. These expenses are allocated against the appropriate budget line and authorised by two of the senior officers or staff. No person can be the sole person authorising their own expenditure. All our expenditure is, of course, subject to annual audit. Cards may not be used for personal expenditure or for cash advances.

Third-party contracts

MEAA uses third-party contractors for a range of services that cannot be provided in-house. These include auditing, legal costs, printing and publishing, technology support, phones and other communication. Significant one-off costs (such as building renovations) are tendered as they arise. Continuing relationships are reviewed at least every three or five years to determine if they should be put out to tender. Any decision is based on cost and quality. Conflicts of interest between contractors on the one hand and officers and staff of MEAA on the other are avoided and there are no conflicts in any current relationships.

Our general policy on our providers is to review our major external service providers every three years unless other events require more frequent review. This review is conducted by the chief executive and the financial controller with appropriate input from other relevant staff. This review is conducted in November.

As part of that review, we decide whether to continue with current arrangements, to renegotiate or to tender. If we tender, then we will decide based on cost, quality and range of service, quality of the relationship, commitment to our union and industry and ethical and other considerations.

Staffing

Wages and conditions of most MEAA staff are regulated by the MEAA Staff Agreement..

Wages are adjusted each year by an average of major negotiated agreements. Remuneration for staff members is set when they commence employment, based on an assessment of skills and experience.

An annual review covers salaries, although staff earning up to about $60,000 (including administrative staff) have access to annual increments subject to satisfactory performance. Any rises require the approval of the chief executive.

Salaries of staff are reported in the annual report in a banding table that compares salaries on a year-on-year basis. The salaries of the employed regional directors are set by the chief executive through the performance review process.

The salary of the chief executive is set by the Board.

We reimburse staff travel expenses at the flat level of $60 per night away from home, unless a staff member is provided with a meal if, for example, he or she is attending an event.