Victorian union leader John Setka says he is disappointed that a protest against pandemic lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations in the building industry turned into a wild physical confrontation.
Mr Setka, state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, said when he first heard that a group of protesters planned to assemble outside the union’s Melbourne headquarters he issued an invitation to them to attend a meeting to discuss their concerns.
“I sent a message to the protest organisers and invited a delegation to meet me in my office where I had planned to have them join me in an emergency ikebana workshop – traditional Japanese flower arranging – for an hour or so,” he said. (main picture)
“Throughout my career as a union official I have always found that the application of the seemingly relaxed yet surprisingly formal principles of ikebana helps focus the mind on the problems at hand.
“It’s a truly sensory experience and its traditional nature puts everyone at ease and offers a kind of simplicity that allows those attending to unravel often very complex issues.
“I’ve found it very useful in negotiations with building company executives and I have even commissioned a range of hi-viz kimonos for use on construction sites which I often visit to participate in toolbox meetings with union members based around an ikebana session.
“On Monday I was in the middle of laying out a range of blooms and vases in my office when I heard the commotion outside, and I knew I had to get the ringleaders inside urgently so that they could select foliage and start working on their arrangements as soon as possible.”
But Mr Setka said he was stung by the insults hurled at him by protesters when he went to meet protestors outside the CFMMEU’s offices.
“I won’t repeat the nasty descriptions they hurled at me,” a clearly distraught Mr Setka said.
“Their rude and unruly behaviour really hurt and disappointed me, not just because it has now led to a total lockdown of our industry for a fortnight.
“I was so upset that even returning to my ikebana didn’t settle my nerves, so instead I went to the union’s rec room for an hour of jazz ballet. (pictured)
“It worked a treat and today I feel much more positive,” Mr Setka said.