Catholic gathering will examine 'justice at work' issues

By Ellen Teague
17 Jun 2011

Justice in the workplace will be the theme of the 33rd annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales, it has been announced.

The network brings together Catholics from a wide range of backgrounds. Around 400 people are expected to attend the event at Swanwick 15-17 July 2011

This popular conference (the full title for which is ‘Justice at Work - A Place of safety, fulfilment and growth’) will feature a mix of talks, workshops, and market place.

The event aims to raise awareness of working conditions in the context of today’s economy and modern society. It will explore the dignity and reality of contemporary work from a Christian perspective, using Catholic Social Teaching.

The conference is child-friendly, the organisers stress, with children and youth programmes running alongside the adult programme.

The NJPN, a leading grassroots campaigning network, was established to encourage prophetic witness, raising awareness of justice and peace as central to the life of the Catholic Church.

Speakers at the event include David McLoughlin, Senior Lecturer in Theology at Newman University College and a founder member of the Movement of Christian Workers; Jon Cruddas MP, a member of the Transport and General Workers Union from 1989 until his election to parliament in 2001 and a supporter of the minimum wage; Frances O’Grady, deputy General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and the first woman ever to hold this post; John Battle, former National Co-ordinator of Church Action on Poverty and MP for Leeds West from 1987 until he stood down in 2010; CAFOD partner Sheila Kambobe, Deputy Director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia who has worked on UN programmes in Sierra Leone, East Timor and Cambodia.

More than 20 workshops will cover such issues as: ‘The Living Wage Campaign’, ‘Workers in the Informal Economy’, ‘The UK Arms Industry – Ethical Issues and Alternatives’, ‘God’s Compassion for Women involved in Prostitution’ and ‘A Balanced Approach – Does your work leave any space for life?’. Martin Foley, Director of Apostleship of the Sea, will address the challenges facing the global seafaring community; Rosie Bairwal, National Coordinator of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, will explore discrimination in the workplace; John Fowler of the Farm Crisis Network will share experiences of rural workers; and Christine Allen, Director of Progressio, examine the impact of development workers in the global south.

A workshop on Migrant Domestic Workers will be led by Marissa Begonia, a migrant worker herself who is spokesperson for Justice for Domestic Workers, a British-based self-help group that has been working with trade unions in the UK to win support for an International Convention on Domestic Work.

Just this week a new treaty she lobbied for was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva which will protect millions of domestic workers around the world. Under the new international legal instrument, domestic workers will have rights such as an entitlement to social protection, to rest days and annual leave, collective bargaining and protection from abuse.

On the Saturday evening of the conference there will be a Question Time panel chaired by Bishop William Kenney, auxiliary in Birmingham Archdiocese. The panel will include Rachael Maskell, National Officer for 60,000 Community, Youth Workers and Not for Profit sector workers of the public sector union Unite. These include many who work for charities, housing associations and faith workers.

* Places are still available and all are welcome, says NJPN. The booking form can be downloaded (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file) at:
http://justice-and-peace.org.uk/documents/CONF%202011%20Booking%20Form.pdf

* See also: www.justice-and-peace.org.uk

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(c) Ellen Teague is a freelance Catholic journalist who works regularly for The Tablet, JUSTICE magazine, Independent Catholic News, Redemptorist Publications and the Messenger of St Anthony. She is also a member of the Columban Missionary Society Justice and Peace team, and chairs the Environment Working Group of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales.

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