Church body slams IR policy proposals

The Howard Government's proposed workplace relations changes have drawn strong criticism from the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations in its major briefing paper which was released yesterday.

The Age reports that, in the discussion paper, the Commission queries key elements of the Government's proposals and says they could allow some employers to mistreat employees, lead to lower wages and impose unfair burdens on low-paid workers.

The Commission advises Australia's Catholic bishops and assists the church and its agencies in their role as one of the nation's biggest employers. About 100,000 people work for the various arms of the church across the country.

The Agecomments that the paper will come as a disappointment to the Government, "which has in the past looked for support on some of its more contentious policies from Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell". Dr Pell has already expressed concern about the Government's proposals and the 61-page paper presents him and the bishops with the intellectual case against the changes.

The Commission argues that the Government's changes to wage-fixing, which will see minimum wages fixed on the basis of the needs of a single adult worker rather than a "living wage" needed to support dependants, could have a serious effect on families.

It says the changes would mean that low-paid workers would be "placed in a position where they are required to carry a disproportionate burden of the requirement for economic adjustment". Social measures such as greater tax relief for people on low incomes and increases in family payments could reduce that burden.

The commission's paper rejects the Government's argument that the removal of unfair dismissal laws for small to medium businesses would generate jobs, and says that removing accountability for those with powers to hire and fire "is to put at risk the legal incentive for some firms to undertake fair and just treatment of their employees". The commission suggests that the Government's approach is too narrow and potentially far too punitive to the workforce. "Importantly for the current discussion in Australia, labour market flexibility should not require the reduction of wages and other conditions of employment," it says.

The one Government proposal the commission accepts as a positive is the move to a single national system of industrial relations laws.

Church slams IR policy proposals (The Age 9/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations | ACCER Briefing Paper No 1

Bishop urges Govt to tread softly on IR (CathNews 2/9/05)
Minister says full employment is Catholic "first principle" (CathNews 19/8/05)
Remote area voice sees PM 'off target' on IR (CathNews 12/8/05)
Commission answers PM's denial of existence of Catholic position (CathNews 10/8/05)
PM dismisses voice of Church (CathNews 8/8/05)
Melbourne Archbishop coordinating IR response (CathNews 3/8/05)
Minister tells churches to stay out of IR fight (CathNews 11/7/05)
Pell voices wages concerns (CathNews 4/7/05)
Canberra bishop speaks out on job insecurity fears (CathNews 1/7/04)
Church leaders worried about Howard IR changes (CathNews 29/6/05)
Bishop hits back at Minister's claims on IR reforms 1/6/05)
Catholic body seeks meeting with Minister over workplace laws (CathNews 30/5/05)

9 Sep 2005