Business attacks Hume on days off

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CLAIMS BY two church leaders that flexible working conditions are destroying family life were vehemently denied by the business community last night.

Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Rt Rev James Jones, the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, expressed concern that anti-social shifts and long working hours posed a threat to children's futures.

In an interview yesterday for GMTV's Sunday Programme, Cardinal Hume attacked modern working practices and said City traders preparing for the introduction of the euro and shop staff should have refused to work over the festive period.

He said the Government should help to ensure that the will to create a better society was elevated above the desire to make money.

But Ruth Lea, head of policy for the Institute of Directors, said the churchmen were "out of touch" and should accept that Britain was a multi- cultural society with many non- Christians happy to work over the festive period. "Businesses have to compete and on the whole employers will try and be accommodating but they have to be able to survive," she said.

"There should be a balance. People should be committed to work and family. At the end of the day employees want their company to do well otherwise there will be no jobs, and don't forget they do get paid."

Many of the big supermarkets insisted that their employees had freedom of choice concerning Christmas hours.

A spokeswoman for Somerfield said that parents were given an option to work. "One of the advantages of working very flexible hours is that people are given the choice to juggle their families," she said.

Leading article, Review, page 3