Churches push for government to enforce workers’ rights

By agency reporter
8 Mar 2010

Britain's main Free Churches are joining with charities, unions and campaign groups to lobby for a fairer deal for the country's 3.5 million workers.

Representatives from the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church will be among those meeting with Government officials at a symposium on workers’ rights this Friday, 12 March 2010. The Muslim Council of Great Britain, Oxfam and the Citizens Advice Bureau are among others who have been invited to attend.

Church policy advisers and delegates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will discuss how rights in the work place could be enforced for the 3.5 million people in Britain who are not protected by employment laws.

The symposium at Congress House in London follows discussions between the Rev David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, with Trade Union leaders at the TUC Conference in September 2009, and correspondence between the three churches and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

David Gamble, President of the Methodist Church in Britain, said: “Agency staff and people on informal contracts are the most vulnerable and lowest paid workers in our country. They are mostly women, mostly immigrants working in domestic or farm labouring jobs and have absolutely no rights that are enforceable. They can be sacked at a moment’s notice for no reason. We have asked the Government to change the regulations so that these people have rights and that these rights are enforced."

He added: “Our work is part of what it means to be human, part of our spirituality. When we work we give more than just our labour; we give of ourselves. Human beings are not machines to be disposed of after ten minutes; a worker deserves fairness and dignity.”

The Rev John Marsh, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, commented: “The injustices and insecurities arising from jobs unprotected by employment legislation affect a huge number of people. The growing gap between the highest paid 10 per cent and the lowest paid 10 per cent - and its underlying implication about the relative worth of persons - is an unpalatable part of modern life. We are in full support of any legislation that seeks to protect workers and moves towards equality in the workplace and society.”

The Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, added : “An imbalance in power in the worker-employer relationship can quickly lead to mistreatment, exploitation and poverty. Vulnerable workers often have little access to advice and don’t know what rights they do have. These issues urgently need to be addressed and tighter regulation introduced in those sectors where the risks are greatest.”

The Methodists, URC and Baptists work through a Joint Public Issues Team on the churches' contribution to social, political and economic affairs. See: www.jointpublicissues.org.uk

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