Vinnies kicks off IR laws war

The St Vincent de Paul Society is at the centre of a bitter test case under the Government's new workplace laws, according to a report in the Melbourne Herald-Sun this morning.

Dozens of St Vincent de Paul workers are expected to walk off the job at its aged care centres today.

The action is not sanctioned under the WorkChoices laws, which came into effect on Monday, and could prove unlawful. If so, the workers could be fined up to $6600 each and their unions $33,000.

The Health Services Union (HSU) said the charity had used the new laws to dock a worker's pay for speaking to a union official. "They've found new bravado simply because of the new legislation," state secretary Jeff Jackson said.

"This is a Catholic welfare organisation that by its own admission says this legislation is wrong and has many faults."

But St Vincent de Paul, which opposed the laws before their introduction, said residents were being held to ransom.

"They are using the residents as leverage," aged care manager Julia Currell said.

"Their very basic needs, such as having their clothes washed and their bins emptied and being able to return to their home when they've been in hospital, have been affected."

The HSU and the Australian Nursing Federation want a 12 per cent pay rise for the aged care workers. But Ms Currell said the charity could afford only 9 per cent: "We've been in negotiations ... but the reality is that we don't have the money."

Mr Jackson said his union believed its action would be legal because the dispute began before the laws came into effect. But a recent Federal Government ruling said all previous industrial action had to cease under the new legislation.

In Parliament yesterday, Labor leader Kim Beazley said that the new regime is the beginning of the end of workplace fairness.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews told ABC TV that employees could be sacked over workplace "personality clashes".

"You can sack somebody provided it is not unlawful, and the reality is that some relationships in the workplace, as in other areas of life, simply don't work out," Mr Andrews said.

Charity begins IR laws war (Herald-Sun 23/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Vincent de Paul Society
WorkChoices: A New Workplace Relations System

Employment body echoes concern on minimum wage (CathNews 27/3/06)
Commission urges Church employers to review contracts (CathNews 14/3/06)
Commission advises Catholic employers on new legislation (CathNews 27/1/06)

A call for fair treatment (Manning River Times 28/3/06)
Govt stands by IR laws (ABC Radio The World Today 22/3/06)
Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass for All Workers (Zenit 21/3/06)
Papal Address to Italian Christian Executives (Zenit 21/3/06)

29 Mar 2006