IR reforms to sideline body that Pope admired
The Australian Political Ministry Network has highlighted the impending reduction of the powers of the independent Industrial Relations Commission, which Pope John Paul II described during his 1986 visit to Australia as a "unique system of arbitration and conciliation" which has "helped to defend the rights of workers".
The Catholics lobby issued a statement on Friday to express its alarm at the proposed WorkChoices legislation, which was introduced into Parliament last. Coordinator Regina Lane described the changes as a "gross attack on the Australian way of life".
"The Howard Government has spent millions of dollars propagating the idea that the new changes will deliver a stronger economy," she said. "However, we are yet to actually see the substantive evidence to support this claim. Such radical change requires proper public and parliamentary scrutiny. That the Senate has four days in which to conduct an inquiry on the 700 page legislation is a sad indictment on our democratic system".
"Regardless of the alleged economic gain, PolMin believes that we stand to lose a lot more from this legislation, than we stand to gain. We live in a society, Mr Howard, not an economy. That society has been built on hard fought rights and protections in the workplace, so that we Australians have been able to strike a sensible work-family balance.
"The rolling back of these protections, such as the scrapping of the "no disadvantage" test undermines the dignity of the worker. The changes clearly strengthen the position of the employer whilst putting people in positions where they may be forced to bargain for conditions such as penalty rates and public holidays or risk losing their jobs."
PolMin is concerned that the changes will leave low paid and unskilled workers vulnerable to exploitation, which will have the effect of driving wages down and increasing the pool of working poor.
"Couple this with the scrapping of the unfair dismissal protections in workplaces of less than 100 employees and workers are being denied the security and protection they deserve to live in dignity".
Ms Lane said that the Catholic Church has a strong tradition of upholding workers rights, and has particularly advocated the right to bargain collectively.
"This right to association and representation are fundamental principles of democracy. The attack on the unions cuts at the heart of the democratic values, rights and protections that enable the achievement of the common good".
Standing to lose from Industrial Relations changes (Australian Political Ministry Network 4/11/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Political Ministry Network
Industrial Relations Commission
Queensland religious join IR resistance (CathNews 19/10/05)
Archbishop warns priests warned not to become pawns (CathNews 14/10/05)
Papal twist in Parliament work debate (CathNews 12/10/05)
Govt IR detail fails to ease Commission's concern (CathNews 11/10/05)
Church body open to national industrial relations system (CathNews 12/9/05)
Church body slams IR policy proposals (CathNews 9/9/05)
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)
Church gets behind unions (Hawkesbury Gazette 3/11/05)
Worry at 'safety net' plans (Catholic Weekly 6/11/05)
7 Nov 2005