Church urges fair job deal for all

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COMPANIES that fail to employ black and Asian staff are burying talent as well as ignoring the message of Jesus, according to a report from the Church of England. It urges companies to adopt a 10-point code of practice which it claims will implement natural justice and allow employers to benefit from the best staff available.

'In the parable Jesus told in the Gospels, the man who buried his talent in the ground was blamed for wasting the gifts God had given him,' said David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool, who launched the report. 'Every citizen owes it to the nation to bring the best ability he or she has for the good of the whole. Companies which throw applications from foreign- sounding names in the bin are guilty of burying people's talents in the ground, and wasting God-given gifts,' he said.

The bishop said the Church's expanding work with ethnic minorities, and the number of black worshippers, provided the Church with a role in persuading companies to be fair employers.

'A group of young black people asked to meet some church leaders in a 24-hour seminar. I found it a bruising experience: they looked at us and said, 'You know some of these powerful people. Why don't you tell them how it is for us?' '

A set of 10 principles has been produced by the Church of England's Race Equality in Employment Project. They are referred to as Wood-Sheppard principles, after the bishops of Croydon and Liverpool, who have sponsored the initiative. It is supported by the CBI.

The principles cover issues such as equal opportunity policies, additonal training for members of ethnic minorities, and racial discrimination and harassment. They also stress the importance of monitoring. For example, the success of a fair recruitment campaign should be reflected in the annual report.

Wilfred Wood, the Bishop of Croydon, said: 'If we are to have in this country a nation at ease with itself, in which people of many colours and ethnic groups are fiercely proud of their sense of belonging, there must be no racial barriers, and the only requirements for success should be ability, integrity and self-respect. In this regard, employment opportunities are of paramount importance.'

Both bishops have for many years been leading advocates of racial equality. The Right Rev Wood is the Church of England's only black bishop, while Dr Sheppard was formerly a Test cricketer. He was an influential figure in the campaign to boycott South Africa as a Test- playing nation.

(Photograph omitted)