New HSU boss vowing to stay clear of Labor mates
Gerard Hayes Photo: Lee Besford
The man poised to take over the Health Services Union in New South Wales has vowed to keep it apart from the Labor Party and living within its means in the wake of the union's leadership disgrace.
Gerard Hayes, who worked under and was once close to the union's former general secretary Michael Williamson, is likely to be confirmed as Mr Williamson's replacement this week.
Mr Williamson is facing criminal charges over his time at the head of the union, which was placed into administration in June.
As the former divisional secretary, Mr Hayes was among those to benefit from big pay rises under Mr Williamson – with Mr Hayes' pay rising from $160,000 to $180,000.
But he has distanced himself from the union's recent controversies, saying: ''I never had the ability to sign a cheque, or determine peoples' pay rates.''
After the union representing 30,000 NSW health workers was placed into administration, fresh elections were called.
And with almost half the votes counted by the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Hayes has garnered 43 per cent so far.
While Mr Hayes is opposed to the union's re-affiliation with the ALP, he has vowed to have its suspension from the ACTU lifted.
His nearest challenger in the count, Katrina Hart, who has close ties to former Victorian union official Kathy Jackson, is lagging far behind him with 32 per cent of the vote.
The final result will be declared by the AEC on Friday, but Mr Hayes is all but certain to win the position as the new general secretary in New South Wales.
The former paramedic who became an organiser with the union in 2000 has recently promised to never become involved with the Labor Party, last week giving The Australian a signed note saying that ''I Gerard Hayes will never seek preselection or enter politics''.
Mr Hayes is the brother of federal Labor MP Chris Hayes.
Last year, after months of controversy sparked by allegations of the misuse of union funds by former national secretary Craig Thomson, now a federal MP, the union disaffiliated from the Labor Party.
Mr Hayes told Fairfax Media on Tuesday afternoon that there would be no reaffiliation with the Labor Party under his leadership.
''We are not going to be doing that. The focus is going to be 100 per cent on our membership, not on the Labor Party,'' Mr Hayes said.
''If people want to play silly games, what [members] are still there will disappear.''
He also promised he would attempt to get the union's suspension from the ACTU lifted. In April, the ACTU executive voted to suspend the union from the body until it could ''resolve serious issues of governance and financial management''.
A spokesman for the ACTU was not able to comment on the matter on Tuesday afternoon. He indicated a move to welcome the union back into the ACTU was extremely unlikely at next month's executive meeting.
Mr Hayes said from now on union meetings would be held ''not in high-class establishments but bowling clubs and RSLs, because that's where our members socially congregate''.
He said the union would now ''liquidate assets'' and move its head office out of the Sydney CBD to modest accommodation, likely in Paramatta.
''Our base is in that area, and we can free up money from expensive office space we have now,'' he said.
Mr Hayes said he would attempt to repair the damage done to the union's reputation by its previous office holders.
''We are going to go from a situation that has just been gut-wrenching for our members to being a fighting union that is actually going to be hand in hand with the members. We are doing what we should be doing, which is having a fight with the O'Farrell government, which wants to attack our members' wages and conditions.''
Another senior union official who had been backed by Mr Williamson, Bob Hull, had taken about 18 per cent of the counted votes.