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Friday, September 09, 2005

The church, industrial relations, and John Howard's plans

The institutional church as a whole has a mixed record on industrial relations and as employers. My experience as a union organizer has given me a very cynical attitude to churches as employers. I think of one major denomination who speaks frequently against injustice and yet my experience of them as an employer is a mesh of injustice, inequality, lack of communication and lies. My own denomination is not excluded from criticism. One of the most dramatic episodes in my union experience happened at a school run by my denomination - a story of a bloody minded bishop, misplaced and undermining power, failure to listen to another, lack of natural justice, employee uproar, and parent power. I represented employees low on the socio-economic scale whose rights and entitlements and status were frequently diminished and overlooked in favour of meeting the needs of professionals such as teachers and nurses.

The Catholic Church, based on my experience, was a mixed bag and seemed to rely on the individual/s in charge: their competence, their social views.

In fact, while many churches have spoken out against John Howard's proposed but not outlined changes to industrial law, the Catholic Church is the one to watch. The Catholic Church has a long track record on social issues and thought. A friend of mind has academic qualifications on just this subject which she acquired in Rome. I know of no other denomination who can match Catholicism on discourse and study on social issues. If John Howard is not fully aware of this yet, I think he is about to find out. Cardinal Pell - a conservative - has already spoken out against the proposals and now the Australian Catholic Commission of Employee Relations has added its voice. You can obtain their document at the ACCER website.

What John Howard needs to do though is to read the speech delivered by Pope John Paul II in Sydney in 1996 at the Transfield factory. Then he needs to reflect.

More discussion and relevant links can be found at The Religion Report site.