Steel unions shun visiting Greens

By Michelle Hoctor
Updated November 5 2012 - 3:29pm, first published July 17 2011 - 1:08am
Greens leader Bob Brown at Saturday's talks. Picture: DAVE TEASE

It will be a cold day in the steelworks furnace before the region's major steel union negotiates with Greens Leader Bob Brown, Andy Gillespie said. Australian Workers Union Illawarra branch secretary Mr Gillespie boycotted a meeting with Senator Brown during his flying visit to the Illawarra on Saturday.Mr Gillespie said he would only talk to the Federal Government on the proposed $300 million carbon tax assistance package, including the $180 million lifeline set aside for BlueScope Steel.This was despite the package potentially requiring the backing of the Greens to become a reality."I'm not going to meet with Bob Brown. Sorry, but I've got no time for the Greens and I've got no time for Bob Brown," he said."I'm going to talk to the Government, I'm going to talk to [Climate Change Minister] Greg Combet, to people who count."Mr Brown and NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon met local union officials at the South Coast Labour Council office.The hastily arranged meeting was organised by the Greens and lasted about 90 minutes.Mr Brown said after his visit he had ‘‘made good his promise’’ to meet ‘‘with representatives of steelworkers in Wollongong’’.This ‘‘promise’’ followed a pledge by Coalition leader Tony Abbott to vote against the assistance package.Mr Gillespie said there were no representatives of the three steel unions, the AWU, Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, present at the meeting.He said he believed the package was ‘‘done and dusted’’, especially as Mr Combet had vowed to back it even if cross-benchers did not.‘‘What Gillard and Combet have announced for steel is part of the overall package. They wouldn’t have announced it, otherwise.’’ Mr Brown said he looked forward to ‘‘future discussions with the AWU and (BlueScope) management about whether the $180million in the steel package earmarked for the region can be spent creating new jobs and achieving a pollution reduction dividend’’.Mr Gillespie said he was sceptical about the Greens’ motives.‘‘Certainly there are people asking, ‘What is he after?’ Particularly in light of his previous statements ... [on] industry and carbon emissions - having a go at the biggest polluters and naming BlueScope as one of the biggest polluters.‘‘Coming down here and show-ponying is not going to do him any good.’’He believed AWU members would support his stance.ETU organiser John Thornton said he did not attend the meeting due to a previous commitment but would have otherwise attended.A spokesperson for the AMWU could not be reached.SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris said the meeting was constructive in that the merits of the Green Jobs Illawarra Action Plan - and the steel industry’s role in a sustainable future - were put forward.

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