Union asked to explain $36k debt

REBECCA STEVENSON
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2010

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The Council of Trade Unions wants an explanation from Unite on why it failed to pay the IRD more than $36,000 in PAYE on behalf of its employees.

Unite, one of New Zealand's largest unions, owed IRD over $130,000 for the year ended March 2009 (its most recent filing), including more than $57,000 in unpaid GST. For the same financial year its liabilities outweighed its assets by more than $170,000.

Unite head Matt McCarten confirmed yesterday that the union owed money to the IRD but said he had made choices to pay for union campaigns rather than clear the debt. "I don't shy away from these decisions, I make the calls."

He said Unite paid $8000 in PAYE each month to the IRD but kept incurring late payment penalties. He claimed not to know exactly how much it owed the IRD.

He agreed it was not a good look for a workers' union to fail to pay its employees' tax.

Unite represents workers predominantly in the food, call centre and retail sectors and has campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

CTU president Helen Kelly said Unite did good work in an area that was difficult and expensive to organise. That required it to juggle its finances. "All unions are always short of resources."

However, when questioned on Unite's tax failure, she said: "I need an explanation for that".

Unite's accounts for 2010 have not been filed. In 2009 it collected more than $630,000 in membership fees from about 11,000 members.

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- The Dominion Post

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