Churches put pressure on the Government to enforce workers' rights

Representatives from the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain and the United Reformed Church will meet withGovernment officials at a symposium on workers' rights thisFriday.

Church policy advisers and delegates from the Department forBusiness, Innovation and Skills will discuss how rights in the workplace could be enforced for the 3.5 million people in Britain whoare not protected by employment laws. The symposium at CongressHouse in London follows discussions between the Revd David Gamble,President of the Methodist Conference, with Trade Union leaders atthe TUC Conference in September and correspondence between thethree churches and the Department of Business, Innovation andSkills.

David Gamble, President of the Methodist Church in Britain, said:"Agency staff and people on informal contracts are the mostvulnerable and lowest paid workers in our country. They are mostlywomen, mostly immigrants working in domestic or farm labouring jobsand have absolutely no rights that are enforceable. They can besacked at a moment's notice for no reason. We have asked theGovernment to change the regulations so that these people haverights and that these rights are enforced.

"Our work is part of what it means to be human, part of ourspirituality. When we work we give more than just our labour; wegive of ourselves. Human beings are not machines to be disposed ofafter ten minutes; a worker deserves fairness and dignity."Representatives from The Muslim Council of Great Britain, Oxfam andCitizens Advice Bureau have also been invited to attend thesymposium.

The Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the General Assembly of theUnited Reformed Church, said: "The injustices and insecuritiesarising from jobs unprotected by employment legislation affect ahuge number of people. The growing gap between the highest paid 10per cent and the lowest paid 10 per cent - and its underlyingimplication about the relative worth of persons - is an unpalatablepart of modern life. We are in full support of any legislation thatseeks to protect workers and moves towards equality in theworkplace and society."

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Unionof Great Britain, stated: "An imbalance in power in theworker-employer relationship can quickly lead to mistreatment,exploitation and poverty. Vulnerable workers often have littleaccess to advice and don't know what rights they do have. Theseissues urgently need to be addressed and tighter regulationintroduced in those sectors where the risks are greatest."