The 33rd annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network has raised awareness of working conditions in today’s economy and modern society.
The conference, held in Swanwick, Derbyshire, on July 15-17, focused on “Justice at work – A place of safety, fulfilment and growth?”
The conference brought together diocesan Justice and Peace workers, religious orders such as the Jesuits and Columbans, and caring agencies including Cafod, Progressio, Pax Christi, Church Action on Poverty and Housing Justice.
Bishop William Kenney, auxiliary in Birmingham and member of the Birmingham diocesan justice and peace commission, was lead celebrant at the main conference Mass on the Saturday evening and chaired a panel discussion afterwards.
Frances O’Grady, deputy general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), was a keynote speaker. Raised a Catholic, she quoted Catholic social teaching, saying: “Catholic teaching recognises that the relationship between an employer and a worker is a fundamentally unequal one and that therefore unions have an important role at work and in society, building solidarity and providing a voice for working people.”
She pointed out that faith groups have worked with trade unions on many issues such as the Living Wage campaigns and should now work together to challenge public spending cuts which hit poor communities hardest.
This point was picked up by former MP John Battle, who said that papal teaching on work encourages trade union membership.
He also said that the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891 was the first document to mention the term “living wage”, and quoted from the latest papal encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which affirmed work for justice and peace.
The encyclical, which was published in 2009, says: “Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs.”