Category Archives: Labour

Commission Welcomes Increased Protection for Queensland Clothing Outworkers

Media Release

Thursday 21 October 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has welcomed the Queensland Government’s introduction of a mandatory code of practice for the protection of clothing outworkers.

The Commission has been involved in lobbying for the introduction of this code for the last two years.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the new code would help to protect the rights of vulnerable clothing outworkers and also support employers who treat their workers fairly.

“We have been very concerned for some years about the plight of some women who work at home to make clothing for unscrupulous employers,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many of these outworkers are being paid very low rates for their work and do not enjoy the protections and conditions that other clothing workers have,” he said.

“This new mandatory code provides them better protection by ensuring that employers who are exploiting outworkers can be identified and prosecuted,” he said.

“Employers who are doing the right thing and providing fair pay and conditions for their workers will also benefit because they will not have their clothing prices undercut by those who underpay their workers,” he said.

“The code will come into effect on 1 January next year and brings Queensland into line with New South Wales and South Australia where a mandatory code has been in force for some years,” he said.

“The only disappointment we have is that the Government has taken so long to complete its consultation process and introduce the code,” he said.

“We are very grateful to the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia and FairWear, a community organisation which promotes the rights of outworkers, for their tireless advocacy of this code,” he said.

“It has been wonderful to collaborate with organisations with such great expertise and a passion for justice for vulnerable workers,” he said.

“The Catholic Church has advocated the rights of workers as part of its social teaching for many years,” he said.

“Indeed, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, gave the highest priority to providing decent pay and conditions to vulnerable workers,” he said.

“There is no human dignity for women who are being underpaid for their work and who work under poor conditions,” he said.

“Our participation in efforts to get this better protection for outworkers is in line with the Gospel commitment to the fundamental dignity of every human being,” he said.

 

The Commission will collaborate with other organisations to monitor the introduction of the code and to continue promoting better protection for vulnerable workers.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.
NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Income Management

ImageThe Federal Government’s legislation to re-instate the Racial Discrimination Act and to extend income management measures beyond certain Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory were due to be voted on by the Senate on 12 May, but this vote has been delayed until the next sitting between 15 and 24 June.  The legislation has received much criticism from some Aboriginal, Church and community groups.You can find the report of the Senate Community Affairs Committee on the legislation, along with submissions and other documents, at senate committee report

You can also find critiques of the legislation from various sources at critique 1 and at critique 2 and at critique 3

You can find ways to take action on the legislation at What can I do?

Wage Justice

Wage Justice
ImageAustralia at the Crossroads: A Time to Set new Rules is the title of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s Pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker released on 1 May.  The pastoral letter considers the position of the most vulnerable Australians as the minimum wage and safety net wages decline.  For the full text of the letter, go tohttp://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/

Queensland Stolen Wages Decision Concern

Media Release

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has expressed its disappointment at the Queensland Government’s recent decision on the distribution of funds from the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations Scheme and the now defunct Aborigine Welfare Fund.

The Scheme was established in 2002 to provide reparations payments to Indigenous workers who had wages placed in trust by the Queensland Government over a significant part of the twentieth century and never returned.

Much of the money set aside for the Scheme was not distributed and the Government undertook a process of consultation with Indigenous people over the course of 2007 to determine what would be done with unclaimed funds.

The Premier, Anna Bligh, and the Minister for Indigenous Partnerships, Lindy Nelson-Carr, recently announced that about $15 million from the Scheme would provide top-up payments of either $1500 or $3000 to claimants who have already received payments of $2000 or $4000. $21.2 million from the scheme and $10.8 million from the Aborigines Welfare Fund would be used to establish the Indigenous Queenslanders Foundation, which will provide education and sporting scholarships of up to $20000 to young Indigenous people.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that, after consulting with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisors, the Commission urged the Government to re-imburse claimants fully for all wages placed in trust and never returned.

It also urged the Government to pay the descendants of deceased workers all wages owed in full.

“We are talking about money earned by Indigenous women and men by the sweat of their brow and taken away from them and used for other purposes,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Queensland Government’s attempts to get away with a token payment which is a small fraction of the actual amount earned by Indigenous workers is unfair,” he said.

“The only just decision would be to pay Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in full as the New South Wales Government is doing,” he said.

“The Commission is astonished that the State Government has decided to put some of the funds in the Scheme into education scholarships scheme despite the majority of Indigenous people consulted by the Government rejecting such a proposal,” he said.

“This decision continues the same shabby treatment of Aboriginal people which saw their wages taken away from them in the first place,” he said.

“The Government must pay Indigenous workers what is owed to them in full and must pay the families of deceased workers what is owing to them too,” he said.

“It has a responsibility to provide the same standard of education to all Queensland children and should provide educational opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from the Education Department’s funds and not from money which is owed to Indigenous workers,” he said.

Mr Arndt said that the Commission would talk to its Indigenous advisors about any further action it might take on the issue.

He said it would also keep in touch with Indigenous groups working on the issue and provide support where it could.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Church Promotes Dialogue on Industrial Relations

scales of justice

Australia’s workplace relations system were the focus of a forum on the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, May 1,  hosted by the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission and the Social Action Office.

Just Work: Is It Possible to Promote Both Social Justice and Economic Growth in Our Workplace Relations System? brought the principles of Catholic Social Teaching on human work into dialogue with the concrete experience of governments, unions, businesses and the community sector. 

Keynote addresses:

Achieving Both Justice and Good Economic Outcomes: Catholic Social Teaching and Human Work Dr Tim Battin Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of New England, 

Applying Catholic Social Teachings to the Work Choices Legislation Joe de Bruyn, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association

Mr Patrick McKendry Executive Director, National Retail Association,

Read full text of addresses here

Commission Welcomes Government Announcement on Outworkers

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has welcomed the announcement by Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, that the Government would accept the recommendations of a Senate Committee report on the impact of the Independent Contractors Bill on outworkers in the clothing industry.

The Bill is a follow-up to the WorkChoices legislation which came into force in March and is currently being considered by the Federal Parliament.

The Commission has been part of a national lobbying campaign on the Bill by groups associated with FairWear, an organization which campaigns for the rights of outworkers in the clothing industry.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission saw the need to support efforts to ensure that very vulnerable workers were not open to greater exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

“Many outworkers in our State are women from non- English speaking backgrounds who make clothing at home,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is unacceptable that some employers intimidate these workers into accepting poor wages and conditions,” he said.

“Many States like Queensland provide protections for these outworkers in the relevant State industrial legislation, but the Independent Contractors Bill, as it stood, made it possible for unscrupulous employers to get around these protections by making outworkers agree to being classed as independent contractors rather than as employees,” he said.

“It made it possible for employers to force vulnerable workers to agree to poor pay rates,” he said.

“As a result of the efforts of organizations associated with FairWear, the Senate Committee looking at the new legislation made some recommendations to the Government which Mr Andrews accepted on behalf of the Government,” he said.

“We are very grateful to members of the Committee, led by Liberal Senator Judith Troeth, for understanding our concerns about outworkers,” he said.

“It is wonderful that Mr Andrews has accepted the Committee’s recommendations and we look forward to appropriate amendments being made to the Bill,” he said.

“The Commission facilitated the lobbying effort in Queensland and we are particularly grateful to Senator Barnaby Joyce for his help in the matter,” he said.

“While we are happy that outworker protections are going to remain, the Commission appeals to the Government to heed the concerns of Australia’s Catholic Bishops about the thrust of its workplace relations reforms,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.