Victoria’s top rail union official has backed controversial CFMMEU boss John Setka after Labor leader Anthony Albanese moved to kick Setka from the party earlier this month.
In comments made to The Age this week, Victorian Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) branch secretary Luba Grigorovitch stood in defiance of the Labor leader and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), criticising both for attempting to interfere with the CFMMEU’s business.
In one of his first major moves since becoming party leader, Albanese has written to the Labor’s national executive requesting Setka be expelled at its next meeting in July.
While Albanese has no direct say in the CFMMEU’s leadership, if Setka were to be excluded from the Labor Party he would almost certainly have to resign from his role as the union’s boss in Victoria. ACTU boss Sally McManus has also said Setka should resign over harassment charges before the courts.
Grigorovitch on Tuesday criticised both Albanese and McManus for attempting to interfere with the CFMMEU.
“John Setka’s ongoing leadership of the CFMMEU is a matter for his members, not the ALP and the ACTU,” Grigorovitch reportedly told The Age. “It is up to the CFMMEU members to decide.”
Albanese has criticised Setka for his controversial history at the union, but says this request for Setka’s expulsion was triggered by a recent report Setka told a union meeting that the work of anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty had left men with fewer rights.
“John Setka does not belong in our party because of the views that he holds,” Albanese said last week. “These comments are completely incompatible with the values of the Labor Party and the broader labour movement. The party that I lead stands against the scourge of family violence and strongly supports Ms Batty’s campaigning on this important issue.”
Setka, who is also facing court over charges he used a carriage service to harass a woman, said his comments regarding men’s rights were taken out of context.
“I’ve been elected by the union members,” Setka said. “They are my bosses. If they want me to leave I will step down tomorrow. But I am not going to stand down over innuendo and lies people have made up. This is dirty ALP politics.”
Grigorovitch agrees, and says any action should be held until the court rules on Setka’s harassment case, where he has reportedly indicated he will plead guilty.
“I’m not one to walk away from those who have stood by me in tough circumstances and there’s a court case coming up where I will take everything into account,” Grigorovitch said.
“I feel that we are acting as judge and jury and no one knows actually what transpired.”