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Working justice and the will of God Rev. Dr. Ann Wansbrough UnitingCare NSW.ACT.

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Presentation on theme: "Working justice and the will of God Rev. Dr. Ann Wansbrough UnitingCare NSW.ACT."— Presentation transcript:

1 Working justice and the will of God Rev. Dr. Ann Wansbrough UnitingCare NSW.ACT

2 This presentation was delivered at the Public Briefing The New Industrial Relations Agenda organised by Monash University and the University of Western Australia Carillion Room, Sofitel Melbourne Monday 24 October 2005

3 Working justice and the will of God In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done; In the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done… (Frederick Pratt Green Together in Song Hymn 168 verse 2a)

4 God has told you O mortal what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. ( Micah 6:8 NRSV)

5 Ecumenical concerns

6 14 member churches of National Council of Churches 1999 Changes to workplace relations are no panacea for unemployment, and will not, on their own, create “more jobs” at “better pay”. (A covenant for employment)

7 National Council of Churches 1999 What is needed is: A political commitment to full employmentA political commitment to full employment Within a framework set by human rights obligationsWithin a framework set by human rights obligations Right of low paid workers not merely to a safety net but to fair and just remuneration and conditions of work that take account of family and other responsibilitiesRight of low paid workers not merely to a safety net but to fair and just remuneration and conditions of work that take account of family and other responsibilities Strategy of employment creationStrategy of employment creation Labour market programs eg trainingLabour market programs eg training

8 Should the churches participate in the debate?

9 Concept of work in religious beliefConcept of work in religious belief Church as employerChurch as employer Pastoral responsibilityPastoral responsibility Jobs NetworkJobs Network DemocracyDemocracy Reject ad hominem argumentReject ad hominem argument Evidence and argument (discourse ethics)Evidence and argument (discourse ethics) Onus on governmentOnus on government

10 What shapes the Christian critique? Church as Employer experienceChurch as Employer experience Human rights Human rights Christian beliefChristian belief

11 Church as Employer

12 Uniting Church Church as Employer principles Just wages and conditionsJust wages and conditions Opposed to erosion of awardsOpposed to erosion of awards Importance of adequate standard for local management committees to useImportance of adequate standard for local management committees to use Cooperation with unionsCooperation with unions

13 WorkChoice issues include: How to ensure justice for church employees, especially those in community servicesHow to ensure justice for church employees, especially those in community services Tension between purpose (eg care of people) and responsibility to those who provide the careTension between purpose (eg care of people) and responsibility to those who provide the care Funding issues for community services when awards are merely safety net, not real payable rates and conditionsFunding issues for community services when awards are merely safety net, not real payable rates and conditions HR management quality control at local level when legal standards eroded – awards, unfair dismissalHR management quality control at local level when legal standards eroded – awards, unfair dismissal Some of what church thinks appropriate may be prohibitedSome of what church thinks appropriate may be prohibited

14 Human rights

15 Ratified by AustraliaRatified by Australia Common ground in public discourseCommon ground in public discourse Universal, indivisible, inalienableUniversal, indivisible, inalienable

16 Human rights Work for all who want itWork for all who want it Just and favourable remuneration and conditionsJust and favourable remuneration and conditions Equal pay for equal workEqual pay for equal work Trade unionsTrade unions Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidaysRest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays

17 Occupation health and safetyOccupation health and safety Right to family assistanceRight to family assistance Right to adequate standard of living for oneself and one’s family and its continuous improvementRight to adequate standard of living for oneself and one’s family and its continuous improvement Equality of womenEquality of women ILO 1948ILO 1948 –Right to association –Collective bargaining – not merely another choice –Right to strike

18 Human rights – universal, indivisible, inalienable

19 WorkChoices issues Work for all who want it (maybe) – but at what pay rate and under what conditions?Work for all who want it (maybe) – but at what pay rate and under what conditions? AWAs encouraged ahead of collective agreements – contrary to concept of equal pay – depend on negotiating powerAWAs encouraged ahead of collective agreements – contrary to concept of equal pay – depend on negotiating power Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard is minimalistAustralian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard is minimalist Rest, leisure and working hours – and safety - at risk when awards can be overriddenRest, leisure and working hours – and safety - at risk when awards can be overridden

20 WorkChoices Issues Freedom of association turned into freedom from associationFreedom of association turned into freedom from association Union activity restrainedUnion activity restrained Right to take industrial action so restrained it effectively disappearsRight to take industrial action so restrained it effectively disappears

21 Christian beliefs

22 Themes of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) God liberates from exploitation and slavery Ten commandments as response to liberation You shall not steal… their labour …or their timeYou shall not steal… their labour …or their time You shall not covet …You shall not covet …

23 God has a bias towards and on behalf of the poorGod has a bias towards and on behalf of the poor  Biblical and Patristic tradition  Wesley  Booth  Catholic Social Teaching

24 What are effects of WorkChoices on the poor, bothWhat are effects of WorkChoices on the poor, both  those excluded from the workforce and  the lowest paid workers with least negotiating power? These two groups may not be set against one anotherThese two groups may not be set against one another

25 Themes in Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) 2 God condemns those who are rich at the expense of the poorGod condemns those who are rich at the expense of the poor Workers must be treated properlyWorkers must be treated properly National wellbeing depends on justiceNational wellbeing depends on justice Human life flourishes when human beings nurture “peace”, the common goodHuman life flourishes when human beings nurture “peace”, the common good Distributive justiceDistributive justice

26 WorkChoices Issues Based on view that workplace relations is about prosperity rather than justice (Access Economics report for BCA)Based on view that workplace relations is about prosperity rather than justice (Access Economics report for BCA) Exploitation because no clear connection between changes and alleged benefits such as productivity, higher wages, choices for workers and prosperityExploitation because no clear connection between changes and alleged benefits such as productivity, higher wages, choices for workers and prosperity

27 Sin – a realistic assessment of negative side of human lifeSin – a realistic assessment of negative side of human life  Individual  Structural  Systemic Temptations facing employers due to, eg competition, shareholder demands or greed (community sector: lack of funding, high need)Temptations facing employers due to, eg competition, shareholder demands or greed (community sector: lack of funding, high need)

28 Government is responsible to God – role is to Constrain sin through law (protect poor) ie regulate the marketConstrain sin through law (protect poor) ie regulate the market Protect and enhance the common good (improve situation of the poor, prevent poverty)Protect and enhance the common good (improve situation of the poor, prevent poverty) Human rights as agreed benchmarksHuman rights as agreed benchmarks

29 Dean Drayton (President of Uniting Church)Dean Drayton (President of Uniting Church) Christians are called to challenge systems and structures that breed hate, greed, oppression, poverty, injustice, and fear. Anything less than this is a watered-down expression of faith ( quoted by Christopher Pearson “Poverty of Church Ideas” Weekend Australian, October 2005)

30 William Booth (Founder, Salvation Army) …the laws of supply and demand, and all the rest of the excuses by which those who stand on firm ground salve their conscience when they let their brother sink…often enough are responsible for his disaster. Coffin ships are a direct result of the wretched policy of non- interference with the legitimate operations of commerce.

31 WorkChoices fails to constrain sin Encouragement for individual rather than collective agreementsEncouragement for individual rather than collective agreements AWAs will not be assessed before registration and will not be public documents so cannot be monitored or struck out – valid even if entered into under duressAWAs will not be assessed before registration and will not be public documents so cannot be monitored or struck out – valid even if entered into under duress

32 Workchoices fails to constrain sin Abolition of no disadvantage testAbolition of no disadvantage test Billy: AWA or no job (and no Newstart allowance)Billy: AWA or no job (and no Newstart allowance) Workplaces gradually become award free, has to meet only AFPCSWorkplaces gradually become award free, has to meet only AFPCS “No coercion” – empty rhetoric eg lockouts (already allowed)“No coercion” – empty rhetoric eg lockouts (already allowed) No award protection for independent contractorsNo award protection for independent contractors

33 Workchoices fails to constrain sin Principles for fair pay commission do not give priority to human rights, living wage for familyPrinciples for fair pay commission do not give priority to human rights, living wage for family Principles for the fair pay commission and the reasons for exemptions from unfair dismissal laws subordinate the needs of workers to other agendaPrinciples for the fair pay commission and the reasons for exemptions from unfair dismissal laws subordinate the needs of workers to other agenda

34 Workchoices fails to constrain sin Abolition of “no disadvantage” test – agreements override awardsAbolition of “no disadvantage” test – agreements override awards Awards only apply in current job, unless new employer chooses awardAwards only apply in current job, unless new employer chooses award No unfair dismissal protection for half of workforceNo unfair dismissal protection for half of workforce

35 Workchoices fails to constrain sin AIRC no longer able to impose compulsory decisions in intractable disputes or to improve award conditionsAIRC no longer able to impose compulsory decisions in intractable disputes or to improve award conditions Disputes now internal matters for voluntary resolution – ignores power and resource differentialDisputes now internal matters for voluntary resolution – ignores power and resource differential Lockouts already becoming longest runnig disputesLockouts already becoming longest runnig disputes

36 Workchoices fails to constrain sin Lockouts already allowed in circumstances not allowed in other OECD nations (so what is duress or coercion?)Lockouts already allowed in circumstances not allowed in other OECD nations (so what is duress or coercion?) Distorted idea of the common goodDistorted idea of the common good

37 Workchoices constrains goodness Erodes ethical basis of workplace relationsErodes ethical basis of workplace relations Makes workplace relations a private – even secret – matter, using “cooperation” as excuseMakes workplace relations a private – even secret – matter, using “cooperation” as excuse Shifts philosophical and moral framework of the systemShifts philosophical and moral framework of the system –Change from conciliation and arbitration power to corporations power means loss of 100 years of jurisprudence that takes seriously the needs of workers –Corporations power – focus on functioning in a commercial environment

38 Workchoices constrains goodness Priority is agreement making at work place levelPriority is agreement making at work place level Awards reduced to safety net on a limited range of conditions which will gradually erode, becoming useless as justice benchmarksAwards reduced to safety net on a limited range of conditions which will gradually erode, becoming useless as justice benchmarks No provision for awards for emerging industriesNo provision for awards for emerging industries More work for small employers if they want to be just – award will no longer be adequate guideMore work for small employers if they want to be just – award will no longer be adequate guide

39 Workchoices constrains goodness Prohibits clauses such asProhibits clauses such as  Payment while on union training programs and paid union meetings  Remedy for unfair dismissal  Requiring that a future agreement must be a union collective agreement  Prohibiting AWAs  Mandating union involvement in dispute resolution Punishes attempts to include themPunishes attempts to include them

40 Workchoices constrains goodness State laws that allow industrial action will be overridden if someone seeks order to stop a particular industrial actionState laws that allow industrial action will be overridden if someone seeks order to stop a particular industrial action Overrides state “deeming provisions” for “independent contractors” – awards no longer protect themOverrides state “deeming provisions” for “independent contractors” – awards no longer protect them Goal is a single national system in which states have referred IR powers to CommonwealthGoal is a single national system in which states have referred IR powers to Commonwealth

41 God created human beingsGod created human beings God loves human beingsGod loves human beings God redeems human beings through the work of ChristGod redeems human beings through the work of Christ Children as gift from GodChildren as gift from God Human beings have absolute valueHuman beings have absolute value

42 Human beings may not be used as means to endsHuman beings may not be used as means to ends Moral value of work is different from that assigned by the marketMoral value of work is different from that assigned by the market Human beings are entitled to livelihood and securityHuman beings are entitled to livelihood and security Solidarity of human beings – solidarity of workersSolidarity of human beings – solidarity of workers Value of parentingValue of parenting

43 The material, the economic, is subordinate to the spiritual and the social.The material, the economic, is subordinate to the spiritual and the social. Prosperity and progress is about human wellbeing, a decent life with shared time for family and communityProsperity and progress is about human wellbeing, a decent life with shared time for family and community UCA – genuine wealth not money but those matters that contribute to human wellbeing (1988 report)UCA – genuine wealth not money but those matters that contribute to human wellbeing (1988 report) ABS “Measuring progress”ABS “Measuring progress”

44 Work is one of the ways people express their God-given human natureWork is one of the ways people express their God-given human nature Dignity of workDignity of work  Livelihood  Value to society  Co-creation Human labour is not a commodity – wages and conditions must enhance human dignity and societyHuman labour is not a commodity – wages and conditions must enhance human dignity and society

45 WorkChoices concerns Wages and conditions determined by “market”Wages and conditions determined by “market” Reduced security – hours, pay, conditions, unfair dismissalReduced security – hours, pay, conditions, unfair dismissal

46 WorkChoices Concerns Loss of human dignityLoss of human dignity Loss of human rightsLoss of human rights Low paid workers sacrificed in name of reducing unemployment – inappropriate and unnecessaryLow paid workers sacrificed in name of reducing unemployment – inappropriate and unnecessary

47 God is Sustainer, ie God gives life and works for health and wellbeing of humankindGod is Sustainer, ie God gives life and works for health and wellbeing of humankind Health and safety, freedom from injury, matterHealth and safety, freedom from injury, matter

48 WorkChoices Concerns Health and safety put at risk by 38 hour maximum ordinary hours averaged over year – no maximum for day or week38 hour maximum ordinary hours averaged over year – no maximum for day or week Policies that lead to lower pay lead to longer hours to make a living wagePolicies that lead to lower pay lead to longer hours to make a living wage National system ignores interaction between wages, conditions and OHSNational system ignores interaction between wages, conditions and OHS Longer hours mean more accidents in workplace, including on road, more stressLonger hours mean more accidents in workplace, including on road, more stress

49 God created human beings as social beings family as extended family, local communityfamily as extended family, local community shared time important – Sabbath restshared time important – Sabbath rest

50 WorkChoices Concerns Abolition of “no disadvantage test” and averaging of maximum ordinary hours over a year means employers now have more “flexibility” to require employees to work any time 24/7 or public holidays.

51 God’s providence – God is Provider Earth and its resources as gift to be shared, not for exploitation by few The Christian concept of justice is distributive justice – a sharing of prosperity

52 WorkChoices Concerns No principles to shape employers’ relationships or negotiations with employees or the responsible sharing of prosperity

53 WorkChoices Concerns Access Economic report suggests any redistribution through tax system should not increase the amount available for redistribution, even though workplace will be unfair.

54 God create woman and man in God’s own image – equality of women

55 WorkChoices Concerns Women will be disproportionately affected by changes to setting of minimum wages and by abolition of “no disadvantage test” since they lack the same leverage in negotiation eg want jobs close to home, appropriate hours and therefore have less choice of employer Problems for male workers affect women’s family responsibilities

56 Working justice and the will of God In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done; In the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done… (Frederick Pratt Green Together in Song Hymn 168 verse 2a)


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