Contract workers win better protections

In a win for outworkers in the clothing industry, Brisbane's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) has welcomed the Government's decision to accept last month's Senate committee recommendations for better legislative protection for some contract workers.

The Cathoic Leader reports that the Federal Government would accept the recommendations of a Senate committee report on the impact of the Independent Contractors Bill on outworkers in the clothing industry.

The Bill is a follow-up to the WorkChoices legislation, which came into force in March, and is being considered by Federal Parliament.

The Commission has been part of a national lobbying campaign by groups associated with FairWear, an organisation which campaigns for the rights of outworkers in the clothing industry.

Commission Executive Officer Peter Arndt said the CJPC saw the need to support efforts to ensure that vulnerable workers were not open to greater exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

"Many outworkers in our State are women from non-English speaking backgrounds who make clothing at home," Mr Arndt said.

He said the Bill, as it stood, would have made it possible for "unscrupulous employers" to get around some state laws that protect outworkers.

"It made it possible for employers to force vulnerable workers to agree to poor pay rates," he said.

He said that the Senate Committee looking at the new legislation made the recommendations to the Government as a result of the efforts of organisations associated with FairWear.

"We are very grateful to members of the Committee, led by Liberal Senator Judith Troeth, for understanding our concerns about outworkers," he said.

"It is wonderful that (Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews) has accepted the Committee's recommendations and we look forward to appropriate amendments being made to the Bill," he said.

Mr Arndt also thanked Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce for his help in the matter.

"While we are happy that outworker protections are going to remain, the Commission appeals to the Government to heed the concerns of Australia's Catholic Bishops about the thrust of its workplace relations reforms," he said.

Justice win for workers
(Catholic Leader, 17/9/06)

Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (Media Release, 10/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission
Independent Contractors Bill 2006 and Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment Independent Contractors) Bill 2006
Kevin Andrews website

Bishop's comments at centre of IR tug-of-war (CathNews, 9/8/06)
Families biggest losers under Workchoices, say clerics (CathNews 30/6/06)
Bishop Manning briefs police on new workplace moral conundrum (CathNews 24/5/06)
Brennan foreshadows lower minimum wage (CathNews 2/5/06)
St Joseph the Worker call to listen to threatened workers (CathNews 1/5/06)
Employment body echoes concern on minimum wage (CathNews 27/3/06)

15 Sep 2006