Arch­bishop told to ‘put house in or­der’ over zero-hours con­tracts

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS - CHARLES BROWN NEWS CORRESPONDENT

THE ARCH­BISHOP of Can­ter­bury has come un­der fire af­ter it emerged the Church of Eng­land uses zero-hour con­tracts and in­vests in Ama­zon – de­spite his at­tacks on both dur­ing a speech ear­lier this week.

Speak­ing at the TUC Congress in Manch­ester, Justin Welby crit­i­cised firms such as Ama­zon for pay­ing “al­most noth­ing” in taxes, and de­scribed the so-called ‘gig econ­omy’ and zero-hours con­tracts as “the rein­car­na­tion of an an­cient evil”.

It has now been re­vealed that at least two Church of Eng­land cathe­drals are ad­ver­tis­ing ze­ro­hours con­tract jobs, while the Church has con­firmed re­tailer Ama­zon is one of its 20 biggest in­vest­ments world­wide.

Glouces­ter Cathe­dral is ad­ver­tis­ing for a porter on a zero-hours con­tract, with its web­site de­scrib­ing the role as mostly evening and week­end work with a wage of up to £8.75 per hour. Nor­wich Cathe­dral is look­ing for a re­fec­tory as­sis­tant, call­ing it a “ca­sual ze­ro­hours post” on its web­site.

In a let­ter to the Rev­erend Ray An­gle­sea, a United Re­formed Church min­is­ter who worked on a zero-hours con­tract in a cathe­dral bookshop, said the arch­bishop “might have done well to have put his own house in or­der be­fore ad­dress­ing the con­fer­ence”.

He wrote: “What the Most Rev Justin Welby did not dis­close was how many of his cathe­drals are zero con­tract hour em­ploy­ers and how many cathe­dral em­ploy­ees have no job cer­tainty, no sick or hol­i­day pay, and no ma­ter­nity cover.”

Con­ser­va­tive MP Ben Bradley told the pa­per: “It’s hyp­o­crit­i­cal when (he) con­demns zero-hours con­tracts whilst his churches are ad­ver­tis­ing zero-hours jobs.”

An­other Tory back­bencher, Ge­orge Free­man, told BBC Ra­dio 4’s pro­gramme: “It cer­tainly doesn’t look good, does it? I think we should all prac­tise what we preach.

“That said, I think the arch­bishop is right to sig­nal that we should all be care­ful where we invest our money and in that choice back eth­i­cal cap­i­tal­ism.”

The Church of Eng­land said ad­vice to its parishes on zero-hours con­tracts was is­sued in 2013, and “does not re­flect the cur­rent think­ing” of the Church, adding: “As a re­spon­si­ble em­ployer, the Church of Eng­land is now re­view­ing its work­ing prac­tices.”

A spokes­woman for Lam­beth Palace told that the arch­bishop had “made clear his views on zero-hours con­tracts” in his speech.

On its in­vest­ment in Ama­zon, a spokesman for the church said: “The Church Com­mis­sion­ers have pre­vi­ously been on the record that we con­sider ag­gres­sive tax avoid­ance or abu­sive tax ar­range­ments to be both a business risk and an eth­i­cal is­sue. As with other is­sues, we take the view that it is most ef­fec­tive to be in the room with these com­pa­nies seek­ing change as a share­holder.”

As well as Ama­zon, the Church Com­mis­sion­ers body holds stocks in pub­licly listed com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Google owner Al­pha­bet, oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell, and pharma firms Glax­oSmithK­line and As­traZeneca.

It also has a pri­vate eq­uity port­fo­lio and sev­eral prop­erty hold­ings in­clud­ing a 10 per cent stake in the Metro­cen­tre in Gateshead.

Fol­low­ing the arch­bishop’s speech, Ama­zon said it paid “all taxes re­quired in the UK and ev­ery coun­try where we op­er­ate”.

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