Trade unions, the church and modern slavery – speech by the Bishop of Derby

On 19th November 2015 the House of Lords debated a motion from Labour Peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock “That this House takes note of the role of trade unions in a democracy and their contribution to the general economic wellbeing of the nation.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate about the historic connection between trade unions and the churches, today’s ‘non-joining’ culture and the role unions can play in combating modern slavery. The speech can also be watched online, here.


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The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, for this timely and important debate, and for his introduction to it. I want to say a little about the context in which we are having the debate and then make one or two points about the future of the trade union movement. As the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, hinted, the trade union movement as we know it came out of chapels and churches and concern for the welfare of human beings in the world of work. We face similar challenges. If I may, I shall name some of the challenges that face not just churches but trade unions.

We live in what I call a non-joining culture. People want their rights and services in their lives but there is less energy to join and put your back to the wheel to make it happen. As people do not join and our numbers go down, there are fewer people to take up this important work. That is a real challenge for the trade union movement, as it is for the church, not least as the world of work gets more complex. We need more energy, more wisdom and more contribution from the experience of those in the world of work. Continue reading “Trade unions, the church and modern slavery – speech by the Bishop of Derby”