As New Zealand politicians debate the question of trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, an Australian bishop has called on his government to open for scrutiny information on working conditions.
In a pastoral letter issued for last Tuesday’s feastday of St Joseph the Worker (1 May) Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC), asks for regular releases of data on the terms and conditions of Australian workplace agreements.
In the letter, ‘Keeping Time – Australian families and the culture of overwork’, Bishop Saunders says, ‘Over the past two decades there has been a massive encroachment of work into family time. An increasing number are juggling the demands of work with their family commitments.
‘People caught in the dilemma of having to work longer and harder in jobs that really upset the normal family routine are entitled to ask, “Where are the promised benefits of workplace flexibility?”’ he said.
There have been reports of a substantial erosion of overtime and penalty rates under new individual workplace agreements. This could mean less pay but also more irregular hours for low paid and vulnerable workers.
Timely information on the individual agreements registered under the new laws would allow for thorough reasoning and sound debate on the practical outcomes of the new system for working families.
‘Time together is every family’s right,’ Bishop Saunders said. ‘On the feast of St Joseph the Worker, we are invited to consider the ways in which we can establish the proper place for work, and the necessary pay and conditions, so that family life is well supported now and for future generations.
‘Perhaps it is time for Australia, with the help of our political leaders, to put work into its proper perspective,’ Bishop Saunders said.
The pastoral letter is on: www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au
For more info: John Ferguson National Executive Officer, ACSJC, ph: 61 2 9956 5811.