Catholic employer body slams IR fairness risk

Constitutional validity of the new industrial laws does not mean they are fair, according to Michael McDonald, head of the Catholic peak body on employment relations.

According to Mr McDonald, the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations fears that the Government's workplace relations laws risk devaluing a person's human dignity and demeaning their contribution in the workplace, the Catholic Weekly reports.

"The validity of the law does not mean that it is fair," he said after the High Court rejected the challenge by states and territories to the Government's controversial workplace relations laws.

Mr McDonald says the risk with the legislation is that it is not "underpinned by fairness or by Catholic social teaching principles".

The case brought by the states and two trade union organisations challenged the Commonwealth's power to override state-based industrial relations systems.

The nation's highest court said it rejected the challenge to the essential features to the WorkChoices Act and also the various challenges to particular provisions.

Mr McDonald says this legislative package runs the risk of a number of employers utilising the laws in such a way as to reduce wages and conditions by having sole regard for improved efficiency.

"Our concerns are with the content of the legislation and the working life of employers and employees," he said.

"There should exist an employment relations framework that fosters fairness and encourages productive workplaces.

"The laws should support in a balanced way representative rights for the employees.

"These laws do not necessarily create fair and productive workplaces."

He added: "We are concerned about human dignity being integral to the employment relationship.

"Unless an employer acknowledges that the best way to run their business is to operate with fairness and an eye to a long-term productive enterprise, then the risk for employees is that their contribution may be diminished or demeaned."

Bishop Kevin Manning, Bishop of Parramatta, says the WorkChoices legislation is "manifestly unjust" and unfair and the Government has "failed in its duty to promote the common good".

An outspoken critic of the IR laws, he said they breach the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the social teaching of the Church.

"Let us be very clear about this: there is no right to collective bargaining under the legislation," Bishop Manning said.

"This is manifestly unjust!"

'Risk that IR laws will devalue human dignity' (Catholic Weekly, 19/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Commission on Employment Relations
Bishop Manning's Letters

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)

16 Nov 2006