Clergy say government has acted like Pontius Pilate

Clergy say government has acted like Pontius Pilate

By staff writers
17 Jan 2005

Clergy say Government has acted like Pontius Pilate

-17/01/05

The Chairman of the clergy and churchworkers branch of the Amicus union, has said that the Government has acted "like Pontius Pilate" by failing to give rights and protections enjoyed by other workers, to members of the clergy, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The Government signalled in 2002 that it was considering extending the rights enjoyed by most employees to clerics after a series of high profile rows over the treatment of clergy.

However the Government appears to have bowed to pressure from further up the church hierachy, says the newspaper, and dropped its threat to bring all clerics under the protection of employment law.

To the fury of the clergy's trade union, ministers are preparing a compromise which the union believes is inadequate.

The union called the proposals "a betrayal of his 1,000 members."

"The Government is like Pontius Pilate, washing its hands of the problem. Why shouldn't we have the same rights as every other employee?" said the Rev Tony Bell, chairman of the clergy and churchworkers branch of the Amicus union.

Under the proposals, drawn up after negotiations with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Church of England and other faith groups will voluntarily agree to a set of minimum conditions.

They have until the summer to provide clerics with clearer terms and conditions of employment and more transparent grievance procedures, and the DTI will review these arrangements next year.

The deal, due to be finalised this month, will mean that clergy will retain their present status as office holders, technically employed by God rather than their bishop or diocese.

Sacked clerics will still be denied the right to challenge their bishops in employment tribunals, although the Church of England may independently grant such rights.

The agreement is supposed to apply to all the main faiths, including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, but Gerry Sutcliffe, the employment minister, is not planning to penalise those that opt out so long as the "core" religions are involved. It is unclear how the DTI will monitor the scheme.

The Church of England and the Catholic Church argued that the unique relationship between bishops and clergy would be undermined if law was imposed. They are concerned about facing potentially embarrassing clashes in employment tribunals.

The Chairman of the clergy and churchworkers branch of the Amicus union, has said that the Government has acted "like Pontius Pilate" by failing to give rights and protections enjoyed by other workers, to members of the clergy, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The Government signalled in 2002 that it was considering extending the rights enjoyed by most employees to clerics after a series of high profile rows over the treatment of clergy.

However the Government appears to have bowed to pressure from further up the church hierachy, says the newspaper, and dropped its threat to bring all clerics under the protection of employment law.

To the fury of the clergy's trade union, ministers are preparing a compromise which the union believes is inadequate.

The union called the proposals "a betrayal of his 1,000 members."

"The Government is like Pontius Pilate, washing its hands of the problem. Why shouldn't we have the same rights as every other employee?" said the Rev Tony Bell, chairman of the clergy and churchworkers branch of the Amicus union.

Under the proposals, drawn up after negotiations with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Church of England and other faith groups will voluntarily agree to a set of minimum conditions.

They have until the summer to provide clerics with clearer terms and conditions of employment and more transparent grievance procedures, and the DTI will review these arrangements next year.

The deal, due to be finalised this month, will mean that clergy will retain their present status as office holders, technically employed by God rather than their bishop or diocese.

Sacked clerics will still be denied the right to challenge their bishops in employment tribunals, although the Church of England may independently grant such rights.

The agreement is supposed to apply to all the main faiths, including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, but Gerry Sutcliffe, the employment minister, is not planning to penalise those that opt out so long as the "core" religions are involved. It is unclear how the DTI will monitor the scheme.

The Church of England and the Catholic Church argued that the unique relationship between bishops and clergy would be undermined if law was imposed. They are concerned about facing potentially embarrassing clashes in employment tribunals.

Keywords: clergy | clergy union
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