THE meatworkers’ union is angry that Primo Smallgoods chief executive Paul Lederer is considering buying into the Western Sydney Wanderers football team while ‘‘crying poor’’ in enterprise bargaining negotiations for Scone abattoir.
Mr Lederer, whose family holds a substantial minority stake in Primo after selling the rest of the company to a private equity firm in 2011 for a reported price of more than $900million, is a director of the Wanderers.
Like Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy, Mr Lederer’s background is Hungarian, and the two are regarded as close friends.
The federation owns the Wanderers, who are in their second season, and has reportedly hired investment bank UBS to sell the club with an estimated value of between $11million and $15million.
The Lederer syndicate is believed to include businessman Peter Duncan – whose hydraulics business, Pirtek, is a Wanderers sponsor – and a Chinese businessman.
Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union branch secretary Grant Courtney said he had nothing against the Wanderers but it was hard for his members to read that Mr Lederer was looking to buy into a football club at the same time as he was saying his company could not afford the pay rise they were after.
As the Newcastle Herald reported late last year, union members at the Scone abattoir went on strike twice before Christmas over an enterprise agreement.
Mr Lederer responded by signing an ‘‘open letter to the Scone community’’, published as a newspaper advertisement, which described the strike action as ‘‘irrational and ridiculous’’.
‘‘The union demands are totally unreasonable and will only destroy more jobs in the industry,’’ Mr Lederer wrote.
The union produced its own open letter two days later, saying its members had ‘‘taken offence to the comments made by Mr Lederer’’, saying ‘‘this company can hardly cry poor turning over $1.2billion a year with its chief executive one of the richest men in the meat industry’’.
A Primo spokesman said yesterday that the union was distorting the picture.
‘‘For nine years while the Scone plant was not profitable, Paul Lederer pumped money into keeping it going and everyone employed,’’ the spokesman said.
Mr Courtney said Primo ‘‘pays the lowest wages in meat processing around the country’’, and the workers employed through third-party labour hire companies earned even less.
He said his members were concerned that the Chinese businessman reported as a syndicate member may have been associated with labour hire firms used at Scone but Mr Lederer said ‘‘there is no Chinese labour hire company involved with the club’’.