Biagini gets to work as Hughie maintains rage

New TWU Queensland secretary gets to work, but vanquished rival Hughie Williams is refusing to leave quietly

By Brad Gardner | December 15, 2010

The new branch secretary of the Queensland Transport Workers Union has started putting his stamp on the organisation, but former incumbent Hughie Williams is refusing to leave quietly.

After defeating Williams last month in the union election, Peter Biagini has stepped into the role of branch secretary a month before the official handover on January 10.

He has begun appointing new organisers to boost the TWU’s representative ranks and plans to increase the number of organisers and union coordinators within the next three months.

The move has angered Williams, who claims workers were shown the door as part of Biagini’s efforts to restructure the union.

"Many of the staff had wanted to stay on and do their job but they've been tossed aside without any opportunity to prove their worth," Williams claims.

The outburst has drawn a surprised response from Biagini. He rejected Williams' claim and says seven of the 13 employees that left chose to take a severance package before he and his team took over the running of the TWU.

Another five chose to resign and take a payout after Biagini became the branch secretary, while one union employee was made redundant.

"He just doesn’t let up," Biagini says of Williams.

"There was a package. If they didn’t want to stay they could take it. If we sacked anyone they would be taking unfair dismissal."

Biagini is planning wholesale reform of the Queensland TWU, which he says has lost a significant number of members over the years due to a failure to represent their interests.

He wants to appoint representatives for each industry sector and to introduce more geographic organisers to represent the specific needs of members in different areas across Queensland.

"The Queensland branch is a very rich union. We’ve got this mountain of money, we’ve got lack of resources out there and the members are leaving," Biagini said during the election campaign.

The bitter-fought campaign included threats of legal action after Williams took offence to leaflets sent from Biagini to TWU members.

After his election loss in which Biagini garnered more than 70 percent of the vote, Williams demanded the Bligh Government launch an inquiry over claims other unions helped finance his challenger’s campaign.

A spokesman for Queensland Attorney-General Cameron Dick says the election is a federal matter and Williams should direct any concerns to the Australian Electoral Commission.

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