Friday, June 10, 2016

Save our Sundays: If people must work on Sunday, they deserve penalty pay

June 10, 2016 - 9:45PM

People who regularly work weekends have their capacity to be involved in communal activities compromised.

By PETER CATTI remember the days when all the shops except the local milk bar were closed on a Sunday. The newsagent and one of the bakeries opened for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning so people could get the paper and buy some bread. Our neighbourhood store opened for a few hours in the afternoon and sometimes we would join the queue to get a Paddle Pop.

My family did not attend church but Sunday was a day with a particular flavour.

It was the day we went to the beach in summer and as a family supported the surf life saving movement. My brother and I were in Nippers and later played our part in patrols and surf carnivals. My dad was a branch official, and one of my sisters was among the first girls to be allowed to join surf patrols.AdvertisementMany of my friends belonged to church-going families and it was widely accepted that Sunday was special and set aside for church-going. I remember people talking about keeping the sabbath but I had no idea what it meant. I was to learn later that Sunday, as the Sabbath, was a day of rest for the good of humans and a day for Christian religious observance.

For some of my friends who had to "keep the Sabbath" Sunday was a drag because their particular expression of Christianity did not allow them to have fun on that day. But for most of us, church-goer and unchurched alike, it was a positive day, a day of freedom. A side-benefit of the day set aside for worship was a day without work, a day for family, sport and community.

Even in this second decade of the 21st-century Sunday retains a different feel to the rest of the week. This different feel is one of the cultural legacies provided by our Christian origins that our whole society continues to enjoy.

Other positive inheritances include the positive, joyful community dynamic that develops as Christmas approaches and the Easter long weekend with its hot cross buns and Easter eggs.

The fragmenting pressures of modern society have led to renewed interest in the idea of the Sabbath. Beyond its religious connotations the idea of Sabbath captures our need to have one day each week when we are free from work; a day to recharge. There is particular interest in the need for the Sabbath, the day of rest, to be done communally.

Increasingly it is becoming apparent that it is not enough for each person to have a day off. We also need to have that day off together. Humans are communal animals and so need the surety of a day when we can plan to be part of community activities. A family get-together can only occur if we have a common time available. And community organisations need to know that we can be reliably available to give time if they are to thrive and so add value to society.

Sporting teams also need a common day to be observed as the Sabbath so that players can be available to fulfil the commitment that is essential for teams to function.

The idea of a common Sabbath allows us to share in a time that is seen as being "after work" and recognises that such a time is essential for both individual and community flourishing.

People on 24/7 rosters and those who regularly work weekends have their capacity to be involved in communal activities compromised and so pay a significant social cost. Many cannot play team sports or give time to community organisations.

Many churches have parishioners who miss out on being part of Sunday community life and worship. These people often feel more isolated than those who can be part of the main church events. Weekday activities and groups are provided for these people but they are still often aware that they are missing out.

My understanding is that penalty rates recognise and compensate those who work on weekends and Sunday in particular for the cost they incur on our behalf.

In recognition of this when I go out for meal on a Sunday I expect to pay more as a way of thanking the wait staff and kitchen crew for the sacrifice they are making to make my day enjoyable.

As a priest I am obviously interested in providing people with the opportunity to get to church but I am also convinced that Sunday is much more than a day for church. It is the day that gives space for the things that make us human.

Peter Catt is Dean of St John's Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. He is chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and President of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia).


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