Page 1, 23rd August 1974

23rd August 1974
Page 1
Page 1, 23rd August 1974 — CATHOLIC HE ALD

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Locations: Waldheim, London, Bucharest


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PAY RES moral problem Church investors with a social conscience can now turn for guidance to a 52-page booklet* which examines the policies of major British companies in South Africa.

Published by the interdenominational research group Christian Concern for Southern Africa the document provides a summary of findings and evidence arising from a 1973 House of Commons inquiry into the wages and conditions of African workers employed by British , firms in South Africa.

The Parliamentary investigation followed a series of articles in The Guardian by Adam Raphael, which exposed firms paying starvation level wages and repressing African trade unions.

In a foreword to the CCSA booklet Mr. Raphael refers to the Select Committee's recommendation that companies should aim to pay their African no less than the Minimum Effective Level, which is estimated at 50 per cent higher than bare subsistence level wages for an African family.

"This should not ,be some rosy-eyed aim for the far distant future" he writes. "British companies should set a firm target date to achieve the MEL.

"Moreover, those companies, note the Committee, who claim they cannot afford to pay wages above subsistence level to all their workers immediately should seriously consider whether they should retain their business interests in South Africa."

He recommends institutional investors — which may well include Catholic dioceses and religious orders — to exert what influence they can on British companies with South African interests.

"The Select Committee's Report revealed that 63 out of 141 British companies who gave evidence were paying minimum wages below the level at which an African family can subsist.

"It is important to stress that these companies were not holein-the-corner bucket shops. They were the leaders of British industry, the blue chips of the stock market, the cream of capitalism.

"Companies of the standing of Unilever, Barclays Bank, Metal Box, GEC, British Oxygen, Dunlop, GKN, Vickers, Thorn, Tate and Lyle and British Leyland are not used to being singled out for criticism.

"They will now do everything presumably within their powers to put matters to right if they have not already done so. But what if not and what of some of the lesser companies with less prestigious names to protect?

"It is surely the responsibility of the shareholders, particularly the institutions, to make sure that the Select Committee guidelines on employment practices are carried out by all British companies operating in South Africa."

*British Companies in South Africa published by Christian Concern for Southern Africa. It is obtainable from 41 Holland Park, London W11 3RP. Price V, postage 10p. Pope Paul said this week that the Vatican's representatives to the world Population conference in Bucharest would focus attention on the moral and economic aspects of human life.

Addressing pilgrims at his summer palace, the Pope said the population problem could not be reduced to simple calculations of numbers of people. He referred to principles outlined in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae which reiterated the church's ban on artificial contraception. He described the two fundamental principles for mankind's progress as the economic right of all men to have food and the moral responsibility of the family for procreation and education.

In his opening speech at the Bucharest conference the United Nations Secretary-General Dr Kurt. Waldheim, warned delegates that the next 30 to 35 years might he the most challenging period in the history of mankind.

Never before had the international community been faced with such expanding demands for food, shelter, employ ment, education and health care.

Dr Waldheim and the Secretary-General of the conference, Mr Antonio Carrillo-Flores, emphasised the importance of politicians coming together to discuss population policy, and that such a policy must be conceived of in terms of human well-being and social justice.

Ina similar vein, but from a more ideological position, the President of Rumania, Mr Nicolae Ceaussescu, urged that the essential requirement for solving the population clues lion was the elimination of the gap between the developed and the developing countries. He also challenged the "pessimistic thesis" that the world did not have sufficient resources to feed the population if the present sate of growth was increased. He felt that science and technology could be better used for the benefit of mankind. The world still possessed huge unused reserves. vast regions still existed where resources had not yet been explored and very little was known about subsoil deposits.

Dr Waldheim's speech, focussed on the inter-relationship of population and such other factors as mass poverty, food supplies, the utilisation of energy, military expenditures, and the world monetary system.

"In each case," he added, "the need is to rise to the demands of the issue rather than sink into a bleak pessimism as to what the future has in store. In resolving each aspect of the complex of issues facing us, a solution to the whole will be found."

Dr Waldheim, as Secretary General of the United Nations, the sponsors of the conference, also acknowledged the sovereignty of nations in facing their diverse problems. Dr Waldheim also referred to the theme summed up in the phrase, 'the status of women'.

Commenting on the importance of this new consciousness among women, Dr Waldheim described it "as a kind of awakening, a cry by women to become integrated fully into the social, economic and cultural life of our times — it presents a prospect of profound effects on population dynamics." Fr Harriott's report — P8.

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