Commission advises Catholic employers on new legislation

The Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations says the question of whether a Church employer is a constitutional corporation will critical in determining whether the Federal or the State system applies to its workplace.

In a paper titled What are Constitutional Corporations?, released on its website this week, The Commission advises that while this issue does not require an immediate decision, Catholic employers should inform themselves on the implication of the legislation for workplace relations in their organisations.

The changes, which the Government has called Work Choices, result from the passing late last year of amendments to the Commonwealth's Workplace Relations Act 1996. The amended legislation comes into operation in early 2006.

The Commission says that a major feature of the Work Choices legislation is its reliance on the "corporations power" in the Australian Constitution to support its various provisions.

It says another major feature of the legislation is that the "conciliation and arbitration power" in the Constitution is not relied upon to support the new system, save for its use to support some transitional provisions. This constitutional power, which deals with the resolution of interstate industrial disputes, has been the principal basis for Commonwealth legislation for the past century.

"There are many employers who are presently covered by federal awards made under the conciliation and arbitration power but who would not fall into one or more of the categories of coverage under the new scheme," says the paper. "The use of the conciliation and arbitration power for transitional purposes enables current federally regulated employers and employees to continue under Federal legislation and not be "transferred" to State regulation.

The paper stgresses that for most incorporated employers, the question of whether it is a constitutional corporation will be the critical question in determining whether the Federal or one of the State systems applies to its engagement of employees.

"It is important for Church employers to carefully work their way through these issues. As we have explained, these are not matters of such urgency that a proper resolution of the issues should be compromised."

Church employment and constitutional corporations (ACCER Jan 06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
ACCER | What are Constitutional Corporations? (Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations)

27 Jan 2006