WorkChoices 'destroys balance and fairness', says Catholic Bishop

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WorkChoices 'destroys balance and fairness', says Catholic Bishop

The Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation has disrupted the 'balance and fairness' which should be the hallmarks of industrial relations, according to the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning.

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The Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation has disrupted the 'balance and fairness' which should be the hallmarks of industrial relations, according to the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning.

Bishop Manning said the Church's position on industrial relations is 'nothing less than the preservation of the balance between the rights of employers and employees'.

'When this balance is tilted one way, and the disadvantaged are denied redress, the Church must speak,' he told the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (NSW) last month.

'The most technical understanding of employment is that it is an exchange — an exchange of labour for remuneration, including pay and conditions. But the context in which this exchange occurs is a human context and that places the exchange in the field of relationships.'

Imbalance in many cases

Bishop Manning said the arrangements set up under WorkChoices ensure that there is an imbalance in very many cases.

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

'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,' Bishop Manning said. 'As an instrument of work relations, the AWA does not guarantee balance or fairness.'

Moved beyond class conflict

He said the world has come a long way since the discourse of the inevitable class conflict between capital and labour prevailed.

'We have moved towards a better balance of the rights of employers and employees, and that balance is what Catholic social teaching seeks to articulate,' Bishop Manning said.

In his address, the Bishop drew on a Pope Paul VI encyclical, Populorum Progressio, 'a truly radical document: radical when it was first published in 1967, and radical now, 40 years later'.

Pope Paul VI wrote that his predecessor, Pope John XXIII, 'stressed the urgent need of restoring dignity to the worker and making him a real partner in the common task, every effort must be made to ensure that the enterprise is indeed a true human community, concerned about the needs, the activities and the standing of each of its members'.

Bishop Manning asked: 'Does this strike you like a workplace operating under WorkChoices legislation?'

Related

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