Gillard leadership wasn't discussed, say union bosses

"Complete b-s" ... Paul Howes, right, with ACTU National Secretary Dave Oliver.
"Complete b-s" ... Paul Howes, right, with ACTU National Secretary Dave Oliver.

Union bosses have denied they discussed withdrawing support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a meeting in which a fighting fund was created to tackle Tony Abbott on industrial relations.

ACTU national secretary Dave Oliver has dismissed a report in the Australian Financial Review this morning that said union leaders had canvassed a possible return to the prime ministership of Kevin Rudd as "plain wrong".

AWU federal secretary Paul Howes said the report was "complete b-s".

The meeting took place in Melbourne on Tuesday and included a number of the nation's most powerful union heads: ACTU president Ged Kearney, CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor, Shop Assistants Union secretary Joe De Bruyn, Transport Workers Union boss Tony Sheldon and Mr Oliver.

The group decided to impose a $2 levy on all union members raise $4 million for a campaign fighting fund, which would target Opposition Leader Tony Abbott over his industrial relations policies.

The report said that during the meeting the discussion turned to whether Ms Gillard would survive as party leader.

Sources "with a knowledge of the meeting" said there was an acceptance that time was running out for Ms Gillard, the report said.

But Mr Oliver rubbished the claim, saying the Prime Minister had delivered on policy issues that "matter to us most".

“The Prime Minister came to our congress several weeks ago and received a standing ovation for the work that her government has done in regard to jobs and supporting low-income families and protecting working conditions," he told ABC radio. "Nothing has changed at all. The movement is supportive of Prime Minister Gillard and her government for the work that is being done on the issues that matter to us most.

“We are talking about security of workers' entitlements. We're talking about secure jobs. We're talking about proper industry policy, such as [in] the automotive industry. All these things are happening and we are supportive of all of that.”

Mr De Bruyn flatly denied the discussion had focused on internal Labor party politics.

"We were there to discuss other matters," he said. "There was passing reference to the political situation but there was certainly no discussion of the leadership."

Mr Howes, who is one of Ms Gillard's key backers, is in Washington DC for the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, and did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

However, he tweeted his support for Ms Gillard today and said the report was "complete b-s."

"All unions are united in supporting the PM," Mr Howes added.

Cabinet minister Tanya Plibersek also dismissed the report, saying the leadership issue had been resolved.

"Once again, I think this is just media speculation, it's just not our experience," she told the Nine Network.

Skills Minister Chris Evans said he was not aware of the union meeting, other than what he'd read in media reports.

Senator Evans said Ms Gillard continued to enjoy the support of himself and the Labor caucus.

"I don't want to be talking about leadership," he told reporters in Canberra today.

This story Gillard leadership wasn't discussed, say union bosses first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.