Govt "canonised" economy, Manning claims

In a renewed attack against federal industrial relations laws, Parramatta Bishop Kevin Manning says that "the Government has canonised the economy" through WorkChoices, as Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders releases a statement to mark the feast day of St Joseph the Worker.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Bishop Manning said Australians appeared to be tolerating or rewarding those aiming to create a society and climate "which makes the economy the barometer of human fulfilment".

"It's like the Government has canonised the economy, the economy is almost like God," he told the Herald.

"We say put people before profit. The Prime Minister appears to be putting the economy before people where wages are reduced and conditions reduced for the sake of the economy."

In an address to Catholic leaders last week, Bishop Manning contradicted the Prime Minister's assertions that there was no Catholic position on industrial relations. An encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, exhorted that the interest of the economy be subordinated to the interests of the community, he said.

"There is nothing wrong with an AWA provided that the worker is highly skilled and has sophisticated capacity for negotiation," Bishop Manning said.

"In the workplace, some but by no means all, workers will have skills of sufficient marketability, and the capacity to negotiate an AWA suits them, but the fact remains that the majority will not. As an instrument of work relations, the AWA does not guarantee balance of fairness."

In a separate statement to Catholics marking the feast day of St Joseph the Worker, Bishop Saunders called on the Government to release data on the terms and conditions of individual workplace agreements in order to assess the impact of labour market changes on working families.

"It is worrying to hear that there has been a substantial reduction of overtime and penalty rates in individual workplace agreements registered under WorkChoices and that a majority of these agreements abolish or reduce meal breaks and public holiday payments and shiftwork loadings," said the chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.

In the Bishop's letter, "Keeping Time - Australian families and the Culture of Overwork", Bishop Saunders said there had been a massive encroachment of work into family time over the past two decades.

He says there were anecdotal reports that overtime and penalty rates had been substantially eroded under the workplace agreements, The Age added.

"This could mean less pay, but also more irregular hours for low-paid and vulnerable workers," he said.

Workplace laws putting profits before people (Sydney Morning Herald, 27/4/07)
One-stop IR plan legal, says Labor (The Age, 27/4/07)
Bishop calls on politicians to help put work (ACSJC, 26/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Parramatta | Is there a Catholic position on industrial relations? (Bishop Kevin Manning, 16/4/07)
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Diocese of Broome

Bishop Manning calls on faithful to embrace "apostolate of influence" (CathNews, 9/3/07)
Arabic Heritage League Award for Parramatta's Bishop Manning (CathNews, 9/5/06)
Bishop Manning named a "Champion of the West" (CathNews, 6/4/06)
Bishop speaks out against dissenters on ecumenism (CathNews, 12/8/05)
Bishop hits back at Minister's claims on IR reforms (CathNews, 1/6/05)
Bishop Manning named a "Champion of the West" (CathNews, 10/11/04)

27 Apr 2007

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