Damon Buffini, managing partner of buyout firm Permira, is set to meet Paul Kenny, the GMB union’s general secretary, in the hope of defusing the row, which threatens to engulf the industry.
Two candidates for the office of UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, Alan Johnson and Jon Cruddas, have both spoken in support of the GMB’s position.
Buffini wrote yesterday to Kenny saying: “I understand that some confusion and apprehension exists regarding the way companies such as Permira operate and I am eager to set the record straight.”
The GMB has cautiously welcomed the opportunity and said it hoped the invitation was not a PR stunt. The union has excelled in attracting media interest in its cause by picketing the launch of a private equity-backed children’s charity, which Buffini attended. Its protesters handed out sick bags and compared the buyout firms to Herod, famous for killing children.
It has also taken a camel to the Buffini’s church, while accusing Permira of sacking 4,000 of car breakdown service the AA’s 10,000 staff and de-recognising the GMB at the portfolio company.
The GMB is not limiting its criticism to Permira. At the weekend it tried to co-ordinate a public protest against Tom Hicks, the new owner of Liverpool FC and founding partner of US buyout firm Hicks Muse Tate & Furst.
The union handed out leaflets at the Newcastle-Liverpool football match on Saturday, claiming that Hicks still owes thousands of pounds in severance pay to workers at Via Systems, a Newcastle-based IT firm previously owned by Hicks Muse which collapsed in 2001.
In the letter to Kenny, Buffini said he was proud of what Permira has achieved. He said as a result of the investments that it has made the futures of numerous companies in the UK, and across Europe, have been strengthened.
“We are committed to having an open and constructive relationship with trade unions; as such I would be keen to hear your views on private equity and on how Permira can continue to play a positive role in securing the futures for businesses and workers in the UK and across Europe.”