Finding Common Cause on Fair Pay
The TUC current campaign to tackle wage inequality and the low wage economy is finding commoncause with a number of organisations across the country. Amongst these faith communities are providing a significant voice for greater fairness and justice. Fair Pay Fortnight falls as a new campaign on tax justice is being launched, led jointly by Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty (CAP) the campaign aims to raise the issue of tax avoidance as a major factor in the growing divide between rich and poor.
The motivation for people of faith to get involved is a concern for the welfare of individuals and communities, those most disadvantaged by the increasing inequality in our economy, and a thirst for justice for all. The campaign is just the latest in a long line of movements expressing concern for the poor and disadvantaged stretching back to the campaign to abolish slavery and beyond. Although rooted in the Christian faith the same concerns are shared with other faith traditions and an important sense of partnership is developing in standing together on such issues.
But the response of faith communities is not just to join campaigns. As Industrial Missioner in Worcestershire with Faith at Work in Worcestershire we promote chaplaincy to those at work, encouraging, training and supporting local church members to be chaplains. This means visiting a factory, warehouse, office, shop or wherever people are at work. We have chaplains visiting fire stations, local council offices, shopping centres and industrial estates. Perhaps once a fortnight a chaplain pops in for a chat, and sometimes a cup of tea. It provides a chance for workers to talk confidentially to someone outside of the workplace about whatever is on their minds. This might be personal issues or concerns – illness in the family, a bereavement – but is quite often about work and the workplace. The agenda is always set by the workers, and it is entirely up to them if they want to talk to the chaplain or not.
Chaplains don’t come with miraculous solutions to the problems people face, but they are prepared to listen, and it’s surprising how much talking about concerns can help. For the chaplain it means being offered a real insight into what people in different workplaces have to face. Low pay, long or unsocial hours, the insecurity people face in their work, relationships with fellow workers, managers and staff and much more. All this a chaplain is presented with. A chaplain is always careful not to take sides – they are there for everybody who wants to use their services. But inevitably chaplains are drawn into questions of justice and fairness and such campaigns as promoting Credit Unions, challenging pay day lenders – as the Archbishop of Canterbury has done recently - speaking out against exploitation of off-shore workers in the supply chain, and campaigning for a living wage. As chaplains we therefore welcome the TUC Campaign and are pleased to support Fair Pay Fortnight.
There are teams of workplace chaplains across the country. For your local contact see www.industrialmission.org.uk
Industrial Missioner and Chaplain
Faith at Work in Worcestershire www.faithatwork.org.uk