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Builder and union bosses peace talks set to fail: Grocon
30/08/2012 - Building giant Grocon doubts peace talks brokered by federal minister Bill Shorten will end union unrest that has paralysed major work sites — and has rejected Melbourne identity Mick Gatto's offer to act as a go-between. Steve Lillebuen
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Grocon CEO Daniel Grollo and Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) bosses are set to meet privately with Fair Work Australia on Thursday.
But if construction workers continue to defy court orders and blockade their Melbourne CBD building site, Grocon says it will walk away from the meeting organised by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.
"We have grave concerns attending talks while the CFMEU is still illegally blockading our site and preventing our workers from returning to work," a company spokeswoman said.
The stalemate prompted industrial negotiator Gatto, who was acquitted of the 2004 murder of a hitman on grounds of self-defence, to offer his services.
"If they don't come to some sort of resolution, I'm sure they'll call me down," he told reporters on Wednesday.
"And if I get involved, I'm sure that will be the end of it."
Gatto said he had helped craft the enterprise bargaining agreement for the union and Grocon as a key contact between CFMEU Victorian assistant secretary John Setka and Grocon's human resources boss, John Van Camp.
"They are both friends of mine," he said.
"But down the track Grocon really backflipped on the agreement."
Grocon rejected the idea that Gatto had played a key role in the EBA and said his involvement was not needed.
"We will continue with the appropriate channels," the company spokeswoman said.
The CFMEU maintains its dispute is over safety concerns and Grocon's refusal to allow externally-appointed union stewards on Melbourne's Emporium construction site, though the company insists that is not the case.
The blockade began last week and then spread to Sydney on Wednesday where hundreds of workers lined Pitt Street and others maintained a presence outside another Grocon building site, though the NSW Supreme Court issued an injunction over the blockade at that location.
A day earlier, police clashed with Melbourne workers in scenes widely condemned by government and officials.
"If they want to make a point, there are ways of making a point peacefully," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters on Wednesday.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu labelled the union's actions as "thuggish" and "unruly behaviour", while Grocon CEO Grollo said such intimidating tactics were also "an illegal, absurd act".
But the union shows no signs of backing down and could not say on Wednesday when its protest will end.
"I haven't read any orders," state secretary Bill Oliver said of a Victorian Supreme Court ruling banning the blockade.
Fair Work Building and Construction confirmed on Wednesday that Grocon workplace disputes in Victoria, NSW and Queensland are being investigated.
The dispute continues amid claims and counter claims that bikies and organised crime figures have infiltrated many building sites.
Victoria's own building industry watchdog will investigate.
But Gatto, who owns his own crane company, said widespread corruption has never been found.
"It's just a witchhunt," he said.
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Lou Furbadamo | 30/08/2012 12:23 1
With all these colorful, vibrant, charismatic, persuasive, rounded-belly personalities, you don’t know who to honestly believe? Why do critical negations incredibly hinge on a crane company owner? Perhaps to raise or lower spirits! A sign of things to come? But, you’d think that with the down turn in the building industry and increasing unemployment, they’d pally up more, over a few beers and bend over backwards to help each other out, rather than spitefully bitch & harm, in a lose, lose situation. Objectively, the most peculiar aspect of all this, is that the union hasn’t been able to get Grocons’ workers to join them? So why are they making such a big deal & interfering essentially in someone else’s business arrangements? Hopefully the industrial court will quickly sort this out? In any case, we’ve had strikes before & we’ll have them again. But we can be sure, this kind of disruptive dispute only flourisher when you’ve weak, limpy pushover, clueless governments that cannot develop disciplined industrial policies and earn proper leadership respect all round! This is another classic example of exemplary management that the Red “Regina Australis, defender of your ordinary, working Australian mums & dads”, can boast about. When next hot knobbing on persistent sarong clad, waste of time, useless meetings, forums, summits, conferences, G20 hot knobbing and other popular w**kfest gatherings! In fact, after hearing the news about these damaging strikes and then seeing her paraded around by the natives on mock green Banana leaves & tropical branches. I thought, Oh my Gods! We’re finally disastrously inaugurating the long foretold Banananananana Republica Status! But then, fortunately I realized It was only a mock rehearsal for the tumultuous sad economic day. No doubt she relaxingly looks & fits the care free, abandonment part? Not bad for half a million dollar plus, plus houses, plus, plus pay p.a?? I wonder if Nero was smilingly sarong paraded around like this, while Rome burnt? Way you go Julia! Cheers & Viva La firm Banana. Furbo!
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