The GMB trade union, the private equity industry’s most vocal opponent, has said it plans to “build a constructive dialogue” with Permira, after holding its first meeting with the buyout firm in London today.
Following a two and a half hour meeting, Permira and the GMB issued a joint public statement, saying that the two had held “constructive discussions about the AA and GMB’s role as an independent union.” The statement added: “The parties have agreed to consult further and to seek to build a constructive dialogue.”
The statement is the first conciliatory sign from the GMB, which has made Permira – and its boss Damon Buffini – the focus of its recent attack on the private equity industry. Today’s meeting in London saw Buffini came face-to-face with his critics for the first time.
Buffini agreed to meet the GMB in an attempt to confront their recent accusations that private equity firms – and Permira in particular – are guilty of asset-stripping household name companies at the expense of jobs.
In a statement earlier today, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said the union was looking foward to hearing “an explanation from [Buffini] as to how exactly keeping the gravy train going for the elite in private equity is of benefit to the nation.”
Buffini has been subjected to a number of personal attacks during the GMB’s recent campaign. Its most notorious publicity stunt was to take a camel to Buffini’s local church in London, to illustrate the biblical parable about the dangers of wealth.
According to the GMB, when its national organiser Paul Maloney met Buffini outside the launch of the Private Equity Foundation in February, Buffini asked: “Where is the camel?” to which Maloney replied: “He got the hump with you asset strippers.”
The row first began over job cuts at the AA, a vehicle breakdown service owned by Permira, where the GMB was the official trade union before being de-recognised last year. However it has since escalated to take in the whole industry, after the GMB’s campaign received political support from several candidates in Labour’s deputy leadership election.
The union today brought a list of demands concerning the AA, including proposals for staff increases, pay hikes and an end to the “culture of bullying and harassment”.
Maloney again appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, where he accused buyout firms of having a “grab it and run” approach to investment.