Catholic bishop slams WorkChoices as 'unjust'

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Catholic bishop slams WorkChoices as 'unjust'

The WorkChoices legislation is 'manifestly unjust' and 'obliterates' the principal of collective bargaining, the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, has told an IR seminar.

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The WorkChoices legislation is 'manifestly unjust' and 'obliterates' the principal of collective bargaining, the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, has told an IR seminar.

However Prime Minister John Howard said in Parliament yesterday that 'even a Catholic bishop does not speak for all Catholics in this country'.

According to an article in the Catholic Weekly, Bishop Manning told a WorkChoices seminar staged by the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations in Sydney last week, the Federal Government had 'failed in its duty to promote the common good'.

Bishop Manning, who is an outspoken critic of the Government's IR laws, said they breach the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the social teaching of the Church, saying employees cannot be treated as 'commodities'. He said the great injustice of WorkChoice legislation is that it 'obliterates the principal instrument of collective action, which is collective bargaining'.

Right to bargain collectively

'The right of workers to act collectively is central to Catholic social teaching. It was stated explicitly in [the Papal encyclical] Rerum Novarum,' Bishop Manning said.

'Let us be very clear about this: there is no right to collective bargaining under the legislation. Any collective bargaining that may take place is entirely at the whim of the employer - this is manifestly unjust!'

Bishop Manning said the legislation is also designed to hit hard at the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in Australia.

'WorkChoices violates Catholic Social Teaching on the Option for the Poor and, indeed, any reasonable notion of a "fair go",' he said.

Disadvantage

'The already unemployed, people in rural and regional Australia, women in casual and part-time jobs, the disabled, and young people, will suffer disadvantage under this legislation.

'In the regulation of the labour market, governments have an obligation to protect the rights of the vulnerable. No fair-minded person could say that WorkChoices does that.'

The bishop said AWAs were weighted 'too heavily', in favour of the employer.

'There is nothing intrinsically wrong with an AWA provided that the worker is highly skilled and has a sophisticated capacity for negotiation,' he said.

In favour of employers

'In the workplace some, but by no means all, workers will have skills of sufficient marketability, and the capacity to negotiate an AWA which suits them, but the fact remains that the majority will not.'

'In eliminating the constraints imposed by the Award system, the legislation stacks the scales in favour of the employer, and particularly to the disadvantage of vulnerable groups.'

Prime Minister Howard said he was not surprised that Bishop Manning should have made those comments.

'Over the years Bishop Manning on a number of issues has been quite critical of the government's policies,' he said. 'I respect his right to do that, but I would point out that even a Catholic bishop does not speak for all Catholics in this country.

Supporters of the legislation

The Prime Minister continued, 'I know many devout Mass-going Catholics who are very strong supporters of this legislation. I know that they have absolutely no difficulty in reconciling support for this legislation with their Catholic faith.

'I think it is very important to make the obvious statement that there is no such thing as a Catholic position on industrial relations. I do not claim any particular support of Christian doctrine in relation to it.'

Related

Catholic Church condemns WorkChoices for 'taking away basic rights'

Catholic Church voices concerns over WorkChoices

Catholic Church expresses concerns on Govt IR changes



  

 

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