Vinnies volunteer crisis over "sackings"

Amid accusations of "corporatisation" of the St Vincent de Paul Society, seven Vinnies volunteers from a Newcastle parish have been dismissed by the organisation after refusing to sign agreements that the volunteers liken to AWAs.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Charlestown parish volunteers, who have a total of over 300 years of service to the organisation, were dismissed last month with a neighbouring group also suspended until it consented to sign the agreement.

In Sydney, there are also concerns from volunteers who fear the "corporatisation" of the charity.

"I'm disgusted at the manner they have chosen to do this," Don Richards, one of the men ousted after 40 years of volunteer service, told the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Richards, 76, said he was most saddened that poverty-stricken families would suffer.

The problems began last year when the society's state council asked members to sign new registration forms - a legally bonding contract, according to the news report.

"It was effectively an AWA for volunteers," Mr Richards said.

Of particular issue is that the council has the power to suspend or deregister a volunteer, and on appeal they would not allow the person to be legally represented.

But the organisation's NSW state council chief executive, John Picot, said the new membership renewal forms and statutory declarations were required under the Child Protection Act.

"It is very sad that we have people who have devoted so many years of effort now feel they cannot continue because they cannot adhere to these changes," Mr Picot said.

But the volunteers at Charlestown said they were already abiding by "The Rule", a 60-page book of St Vincent de Paul regulations.

An amended form submitted by the group to the state council was rejected.

Mr Richards said the group was upset and hurt.

"The administration, in my opinion, has lost its way," he said.

Vinnies sacks charity workers (Sunday Telegraph, 4/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

Catholic social justice advocates prominent in honours list (CathNews, 29/1/07)
Vinnies says "no" to Govt money (CathNews, 6/4/06)

5 Feb 2007