Private equity industry attempts to woo union leaders

Britain's private equity industry is angling for closer ties with the Trade Union Congress – which famously denounced buyout firms as "amoral asset-strippers after a quick buck".

Mark Florman, the chief executive at the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), revealed he had held talks with Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC in hope of building a stronger relationship.

Although the talks were informal, it is hoped that they could eventually lead to co-operation on issues like pay and working conditions.

A spokesman for the BVCA said: "We had a productive meeting with the TUC at the end of last year when we discussed shared points of interest. Obviously we're hoping to build on this but there isn't anything more formal in place at the moment."

In response, the TUC said it always maintained "regular relations" with business bodies and political parties but played down any plans for "joint activities or special ties".

The private equity industry has struggled to convince unions that the buy-out model works. In 2007, the TUC's Brendan Barber, Ms O'Grady's predecessor, launched the "quick buck" attack after hearing that Blackstone, KKR and CVC were considering bidding for Sainsbury's.

During this period the BVCA and TUC also held roundtable discussions, which were viewed as peace talks by some observers.

Unions once paraded a camel outside a church visited by Damon Buffini, the former head of AA owner Permira. The gesture was to remind him of the parable that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

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