Page 5, 7th August 1998

7th August 1998
Page 5
Page 5, 7th August 1998 — Don't blame the bishops

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Organisations: Trades Union


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Don't blame the bishops

THE STORY of the troubles at Gabriel Communications, the Church-owned publishers of The Universe and the Catholic Times, becomes more Byzantine as it unfolds. Last week, we reported that fourteen journalists on the two papers were expected to lose their jobs. It emerges now that there are plans to use only freelance labour; in this way the question of Trades Union representation can be circumvented.

The Bishop's Conference of England and Wales thus finds itself in an unenviable position. It set up the Catholic Media Trust, which through the agency of certain dioceses, religious orders and other bodies, owns over 80 percent of Gabriel Communications. This was done in order to protect the two titles from what was deemed unsuitable ownership.

This prompts the question: if the Bishops concerned, in effect, control Gabriel, why do they not insist that their own teaching on the right of every worker to join a trades union be implemented?

But it is not a fair question. If they had done that, they would have been widely criticised for using their financial muscle to impose Old Labour views at a time when there has been across the political spectrum more emphasis on curbing the power of the unions and on the right of workers not to join a Trades Union than on the reverse. The Catholic Media Trust concluded that they had no alternative but to keep at a distance, and to refrain from coercing a management resistant to the Bishops' teaching that employers should recognise and negotiate with unions.

Their restraint has been shamefully abused by the management of Gabriel Communications, a supposedly Catholic body. The Trust and by extension the Bishops who appointed it are in a deeply embarrassing position.

Workers in a commercial concern substantially owned by them are being shamefully treated. If they were now to conclude that they have no alternative but to intervene directly, if necessary dismissing the Gabriel management and appointing directors more committed to Catholic social teaching, there would surely be nobody to accuse them of behaving improperly.

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