Churchmen attack work on holidays

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TWO CHURCH leaders will warn tomorrow that family life in Britain is under threat because flexible working arrangements are designed to suit companies rather than employees.

Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, will say that traders in the City of London should have refused to work this weekend to smooth the introduction of the single currency, and that shop staff should have rebelled when asked to work on Christmas and Boxing Day.

Interviewed on GMTV's Sunday Programme, Cardinal Hume calls on people to protest against having to work "simply because the financial arrangements of the world require it".

He suggests that a mass refusal to work over the Christmas holiday would force employers to think again. "I don't ever think we are driven by forces which we can't control," he says. "And the will must not be to make more money. The will's got to be that we want a better society."

Cardinal Hume expresses concern that children of two working parents sometimes have no contact with them from early morning until late at night. "The flexible hours are often to suit the firm or the industry, but do not necessarily suit what is important or possible for the family," he says.

He urges the Government to change the tax system to favour the family and ensure that working practices are more family-friendly.

His calls are supported in the same programme by the Right Rev James Jones, who was appointed Bishop of Liverpool last year after the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, vetoed two other proposed candidates.

Bishop Jones urges the Government to reform a tax system which, he says, penalises families. "It seems to me that it's a matter of justice that a salary that feeds one or two people ought to be taxed very differently from a salary that feeds four or five people, so serious attention has got to be given to the taxation system," he says.

He calls for tax allowances to be transferable between parents if one of them decides to stay at home to look after a child, reducing their overall tax burden. Such a system is backed by the Tories but Labour is not convinced of its merits.

Urging employers to take more account of the family, Bishop Jones says: "I think the way some people are made to work is very destructive of family life and people who lead companies ought to be more responsible."

He also says that politicians should not expect to keep their private lives out of the public's gaze, arguing that voters "do have a right to scrutinise politicians so that they can be assured that they are trustworthy".

If politicians want to divorce private life from public office, they are saying "do what we say, but ignore what we do", Bishop Jones says. "I do not think you can drive a wedge between the two."