Reverend Chris Wilson, Secretary of the new Community Faith Workers’ branch shares his thoughts on why workers in faith institutions should join Community and have a union in their corner.
Faith workers are special. They share a sense of calling, of vocation, to go the extra mile for others. Caring for others is at the heart of what we do. It is at the very core of who we are.
We are there with people, for people, during the most difficult times in their life, during illness, during bereavements, during family tragedies and most recently, of course, during the coronavirus pandemic. Look at those who are staffing the food banks, delivering the food parcels and often as not, you will find faith workers in the thick of it.
That shouldn’t surprise us. If you see something of the Divine, of God, in all people, that as you treat all people so do you treat God. The ‘Golden Rule’, of treating others as you would wish to be treated finds its equivalent expression in all the world’s great faith traditions.
But whilst we are called, we are also employed. And like any other workers we can find difficulties with our employer, in our workplaces. Bullying is rare, but it can happen. Workplace stress – and its causes – are as real for us as for any other worker. And workplace security, working with the most vulnerable individuals in our community, sometimes alone, sometimes late at night, brings with it particular and very real risks to our own health, safety and welfare.
So, who cares for the carers? Who can we turn to for advice and guidance, solidarity and support when we are faced with pressure or prejudice?
The answer is Community union. Let’s be clear. This union, our union, gets faith workers. I’m proud the union has already called out antisemitism whenever and wherever it has reared its ugly head. Community is also campaigning against homelessness and for better mental health in the workplace and beyond. These are issues that faith workers understand only too well as being of critical importance to our communities.
Most pertinently, it understands us, our needs, our calling, our deep sense of personal vocation, which is why Community’s new Faith Workers’ Branch will never ask its members to take any action which is injurious to your faith tradition. Make no mistake, this union, our union, will support you, in times of difficulty, support you in improving your workplace, support you with up to date legal advice, support you at hearings or at disciplinary panels and it will – if necessary – support you at Employment Tribunals.
There is more. Community union offers unrivalled benefits too. Access to a Credit Union, a Benevolent Fund and tailored financial support when bereavement comes calling at our own door. And Community is a democratic union, with sensible, progressive politics, using its extensive political contacts to secure a better working world for everyone.
Friends, my appeal to you is to have faith in Community union. For this union, our union, surely has faith in you. And whatever your tradition, whether you are a Minister, Rabbi, Imam, whether you work in fundraising for your local church or in member engagement for your local synagogue or mosque, here is a union which understand our values, your values, and which will stand by you, each of you, every day of your working life as you witness to your own calling or vocation by standing by others.
Rev Chris Wilson MA
Church Minister and Community union member.