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Archbishop of Canterbury calls zero-hour contracts 'reincarnation of an ancient evil' at TUC Congress

By Jenna Dobbs

The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the gig economy as "the reincarnation of an ancient evil" in one of the most passionate speeches of his career.

Speaking at the 150th annual TUC Congress, Justin Welby criticised zero-hour contracts, the benefits system, and hit out at big corporations for failing to pay taxes.

He was given a standing ovation at the event in Manchester for his words depicting "the sickness of society", in an eloquent description of economic injustice.

Archbishop Justin Welby
Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop said: "Today I dream that governments, now and in the future, put church-run food banks out of business.

"I dream of empty night shelters. I dream of debt advice charities without clients.

"When justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, the food banks close, the night shelters are empty, families and households are hopeful of better lives for themselves and their children, money is not a tyrant, and justice is seen."

Prior to his speech, the Archbishop hinted that the talk could be rather controversial, with a tweet about the risks of mixing faith and politics.

Since speaking out, he has received an both criticism and support on social media for expressing left-wing views.

MP Ben Bradley tweeted: "Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy."

The Archbishop also highlighted his dislike of universal credit, the benefit system introduced by the Conservatives in October 2013 when David Cameron was Prime Minister.

He added: "Governments of any party, all parties, will fail, act foolishly, be far away.

"Only partnership between governments, civil society - including unions and churches - business and community, can heal the sicknesses of society now and in the future."

The dramatic speech follows the Archbishop's call to introduce higher taxes for the rich earlier this month.

He also argued the minimum wage should be increased to better reflect the cost of living and support struggling families, and warned of "bitter resentment" between the rich and the poor in the future.

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