The invite, the bar, and the party host.It has been a busy week of cancellations for the man once known as Mr Millions. Michael Williamson has formally resigned as national president of the troubled Health Services Union. He handed in his notice via a text message to the union’s acting president Chris Brown on Monday.
Also cancelled is Mr Williamson’s huge “Thank You” drinks party, which his family was throwing for him.
Invitees from across the country received an email from Mr Williamson’s wife Julie and daughter Alexandra this morning notifying them that, due to “unforseen family reasons”, the celebratory drinks had to be cancelled.
The Williamsons had sent out invitations last week to their vast network of friends, political figures, Labor stalwarts and union mates asking them to the “Thank You” party to be held at The Verandah Bar, in Elizabeth Street, on August 10.
One senior Labor politician who was invited expressed disbelief that the Williamsons were throwing themselves a party.
Apart from wondering who was paying for it, he said: “No one in their right mind would want to be seen associating themselves with Michael Williamson in the present climate.”
The email sent out today said, “I am writing to advice [sic] you all that unfortunately that due to unforeseen family reasons, we will have to postpone the Thank You drinks that were scheduled for Friday week at 5.30pm.
“This is disappointing to us but family pressures must come first. We will be in touch in the near future with a new date.
“We look forward to having a drink with you all then and we hope this hasn’t caused any inconvenience to those who would be travelling long distances to attend.
“Julie and Alexandra Williamson.
Alexandra Williamson last week resigned from her position as a media officer on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s staff.
Earlier in the week, Ms Gillard had expressed dismay at the disclosures in the Temby report, which revealed that her staffer’s family had received millions of dollars from the union, whose members are among the most poorly paid in the country.
The Temby report, an internal investigation into the union’s finances and governance, was conducted by prominent QC Ian Temby and accountant Dennis Robertson, after the Herald last September reported on systemic corruption within the union.
Apart from revealing Mr Williamson’s salary of $400,000 (plus $150,000 from union-related board positions), the report also noted companies associated with Mr Williamson and his family received more than $5 million from the union in the past few years alone.
Mention was also made of Mrs Williamson’s company Canme (named after her children Christopher, Alexandra, Nicholas, Madeline and Elizabeth) which was paid almost $400,000 for Mrs Williamson to do the union’s “archiving” work at home.
Like her husband, Mrs Williamson declined to be interviewed by Mr Temby and Mr Robertson. However, she did send a letter to Mr Temby in March this year.
Mrs Williamson wrote that the HSU did not have the resources to do the work and that her husband had asked her if she would mind doing it. “He also indicated it was not a pleasant job, but the Union Council wanted the job done.”
She explained the task required going through archive boxes “removing staples, paper clips, bulldogs clips etc … The task was slow, extremely boring and very time consuming.
“To suggest as you have I only worked 37.5 hours a week is completely wrong, it would be closer to 60 hours per week,” Mrs Williamson wrote. “I can assure you on many occasions I felt I should have been charging $200 ph, as the work was downright disgustingly filthy.”
However, family friends of the Williamsons have told the Herald that they never saw Mrs Williamson doing any such work, nor in all the years they have known her has she ever made reference to this task.
The union’s acting president Chris Brown has expressed relief that Mr Williamson has quit and indicated he would have been forced to resign if he had not gone voluntarily. “I am pleased he has resigned, now we can get on with rebuilding the union,” he said.
Mr Williamson and other union officials had previously lost their jobs when the union’s troubled east branch was placed into administration last month. The branch, which consists of Victorian, ACT and NSW branches, will be demerged.
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