Unite the Union

Unite the Union

December 23, 2007 19:01 ET

Churches Cancel Christmas Over Safety Fears for Vicars

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Dec. 23, 2007) - Unite has learnt that many Churches have cancelled their Midnight Mass service this Christmas Eve due to the Health and Safety of Ministers of the Church being put at risk.

Over the past few years four priests have been murdered and many more have reported acts of violence against them. Unite deem the main problem as the lack of a named employer for Church Ministers.

Ministers are legally deemed as employed by God so the Church has no legal responsibility for their safety.

Unite has launched a campaign to ensure that all Ministers of Religion receive as a minimum the same employment protection as workers in other sectors of the Industry.

The Reverend Malcolm Liles Said:

"Whilst we welcome all to Church over the Christmas period, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are aware that some individuals take advantage of the season of good will and use it for ill-will. Ministers locking up the Church after a service are at their most vulnerable, as Churches have many places where members of the public can hide. I have heard of several instances, where clergy have been asked for money or have been assaulted in their churches."

The main causes for acts of violence towards Vicars and Churchwardens are due to people having too much to drink, using too many illegal substances, and lack of community provision for people released from mental hospitals and prisons.

Unite National Officer, Rachael Maskell, said:

"Ministers are very visible and often alone in their churches, with their homes advertised as being the "vicarage" and their dress making them easily identifiable. It only takes one individual to take advantage of this situation in search of money or looking for trouble to blight the life of a minister.

"We know of many cases in the union where individuals have had to confront unwanted guests. This Christmas we are advising all Church Ministers to ensure that they safeguard their own well-being by not being alone in their churches."

Notes to editors:

Unites Faith Workers Health and Safety Campaign

The aims of the branch campaign are:

1. To raise awareness of the vulnerable position of Faith Workers (both Unite members and those yet to join), the faith bodies and the wider public.

2. To campaign within the faith and denominational structures to bring about a dialogue over these issues and to ensure that adequate policies are instituted.

3. To work with the HSE in providing improved guidance and protection to faith workers.

4. To campaign for the necessary legislative changes to ensure that all ministers of religion receive, as a minimum, the same employment protection on grounds of health and safety as all other employees.

5. To equip representatives of the Faith Workers Branch with the skills for carrying out risk assessments and providing representation around health and safety issues.

6. To encourage all ministers of religion from all denominations and faiths to join the Faith Workers union, Unite for their own protection.

Contact Information

  • Unite (Amicus section)
    Jody Whitehill
    Press Officer
    07768 693956
    or
    Rachael Maskell
    07768 693933