New laws requiring social workers to register were 'inconsistent' with the Basic Law, a court heard yesterday. Senior Counsel Philip Dykes argued that the application of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance, effective since June 1997, contradicted Article 144 of the mini-constitution, which guarantees employment under pre-handover conditions. His client, Florence Cheung Man-wai, 28, was making an application for a judicial review of her dismissal as a social worker after she refused to register. In the Court of First Instance, Mr Justice William Stone granted the application, giving the green light for a full trial at a date to be set. A code of practice, gazetted on October 16 last year under the ordinance, requires that all social workers be registered. It further states that it is a criminal offence for anyone to identify themselves as performing social work without being registered. Ms Cheung lost her job at Sheung Kung Hui Lady MacLehose Centre last September. Mr Dykes said Ms Cheung was protected by Article 144 and should be able to continue the job she entered into before the new laws were introduced. 'The terms of contract were consented to at a time when the ordinance did not exist,' the lawyer said. The article, preserving pre-handover policy regarding grants for non-governmental organisations, provides that non-government staff 'may remain in their employment in accordance with the previous system'. Ms Cheung earned a Diploma in Social Work with distinction from the City University in 1996. She soon started work at the Sheung Kung Hui Lady MacLehose Centre which terminated her two-year contract because of her non-registration. The dismissal came after an order from the Director of Social Welfare that subsidies be withdrawn from organisations which employed unregistered social workers. Mr Dykes said Ms Cheung had not initiated a suit for wrongful dismissal.