Pope Francis calls for new social contract for labour

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged companies and businesses to bring more young people into the workplace saying it is both “foolish and short-sighted” to force workers to carry on working in old-age.

The Pope’s words came as he addressed representatives and members of Italy’s CISLConfederation of Trade Unions – whom he received in the Vatican.

Francis  described work as a “form of civil love” that allows men and women not only to earn their livings and flourish as persons, but also to keep the world going. 

But, he pointed out that work is not everything and no one must work all the time. He also said that there are people who must not work – like children – who must be safeguarded from child labour – sick people whose right it is not to work, and elderly people who have a right to a “just pension”.

And on the topic of pensions, the Pope denounced both the “golden retirements” given to some pensioners and the meager ones given to others and said that both are an offense to the dignity of work.

He also made a strong appeal to employers and policy-makers saying that “a society that forces its workers to work for too long, thus keeping an entire generation of young people from taking their places, is foolish and short-sighted”.

“There is an urgent need – the Pope said – for a new social contract for labour” in order to bring more young people into the workforce.

Highlighting the “epochal challenges” faced by trade unions at this time in history, he urged them to be the prophetic face of society, to continue to give voice to the voiceless and to defend the rights of the most fragile and vulnerable workers.

“In our advanced capitalistic societies, trade unions risk losing their prophetic nature and becoming too similar to the institutions and the powers they should be criticizing. With the passing of time Unions have ended up looking too much like political parties” he said.

The other fundamental challenge for Unions Pope Francis pinpointed is that of the capacity to be renewed and updated.

Not only, he explained, must Unions protect those who are within the system, it must also look to and protect those who have no rights, because those who are excluded from the world of work are deprived of their rights and excluded from democracy.

Pope Francis concluded his address with a reflection on how capitalism seems to have forgotten the social nature of economy.

“Let us think, he said, of the 40% of young people in Italy who have no work. That is the existential periphery where you have to take action.”

“And women, he said, are still considered second class workers; they earn less and they are more easily exploited” he said: “Do something!”

(from Vatican Radio)

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