Final Statement of the ECWM Seminar in Lisbon 2022: "Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Employment and Social Affairs - Experiences and Actions for Recovery"
Hope is bold!
The European Christian Workers' Movement (ECWM/ECWM/MTCE) organised a seminar entitled "Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Employment and Social Affairs - Experiences and Actions for Recovery" in Lisbon, Portugal, from 21 to 24 September. 35 representatives of affiliates from 8 European countries attended the seminar, all contributing with their experiences and perspectives.
The Corona pandemic is not only a health problem. It is also a social problem that exacerbates pre-existing problems like a burning glass. These include poverty, unemployment, unequal living conditions, inequalities between women and men, between rich and poor. The gaps have increased.
We see that existing injustices are worsening.
- In the pandemic, the situation of paid and unpaid care workers has become the focus of our attention. Care workers were already overworked before. The pandemic has further accelerated the downward spiral. In spite of the importance of health care which we saw during the Pandemic, monetary interest governs in several cases.
- Governments have provided financial support to businesses and workers. However, in many places this support was not targeted enough. This has led to many social upheavals.
- During the pandemic, the extent of mobile working or home office has increased significantly. However, not all countries have the legal framework in place to ensure workers' rights in these forms of work. It remains an open question how mobile work can be used for the benefit of workers. Shadow sides include the isolation of workers with consequences for worker’s organisation and the exclusion of those who do not have sufficient access to digital work tools.
- In the course of the discussion about home office, many people lose sight of the fact that a large part of work activities can only be done in the presence of others. These workers were particularly exposed to the virus during the pandemic. They must remain the focus of our attention.
- We have also seen that those groups that are already vulnerable were also particularly affected by the pandemic. These include, for example, poor people, migrants, Roma, people with disabilities, young people.
- E The pandemic had a major impact on many young people, for example in education, where everything was switched to digital education without adequate preparation and not all students had adequate jobs for home-schooling. Young people often work in precarious conditions, and precariously employed people were among the first to lose their jobs due to the pandemic. Psychologically it was also very difficult for many young people as they could no longer do activities with other young people due to the closure.
- The pandemic has resulted in psychological stress for many people to this day. The tendency towards individualism has increased.
Nevertheless, we also see positive examples that give us hope:
- During the pandemic, activities that otherwise often remained invisible, but which are particularly important for society, e.g., care, cleaning, transport, logistics, kindergartens and schools, etc., finally came into view.
- The willingness to act in solidarity has grown in many places. In neighbourhoods, people have taken the initiative to support each other.
- During the pandemic, social economy enterprises have particularly put their strengths to work. By putting solidarity at the centre, they have shown themselves to be particularly resilient. The social economy is active in all sectors: They are local enterprises that reduce inequalities and contribute to sustainable employment.
"Get up and walk" (Mk 2:0)
In the face of this reality, we formulate our convictions and orientations in order to bring them clearly into the public debate. In doing so, we listen in a special way to the experiences and needs of the people with whom we act in solidarity. In particular, we advocate:
- The right to dream in the future of work, in which we have significantly improved working conditions. It is good that socially relevant activities have become visible, but now it is a matter of sustainably improving working conditions According to the importance that this work has.
- For a world in which people are at the centre. They should be at the centre of our own actions, as well as at the centre of economic activity. We need an economy that serves people.
Every person is capable of doing something socially valuable. All people must also find the conditions in which they can work accordingly.
The weakest and most vulnerable must be the focus of social action in a special way. Welfare state support and social infrastructures must ensure that all people can live in dignity.
We formulate our convictions as an expression of our faith. Jesus Christ, in whose following we are, considered all as children of God and therefore we consider all people as sisters and brothers.
We stand up for solidarity. No human being lives independently of the society in which they live. We see the need to ensure that no one is left out of welfare state solidarity. And we see the need to further strengthen forms of solidarity in social economy initiatives.
The pandemic has shown us in all clarity that social changes are necessary. We will demand these changes and contribute to solidarity and justice ourselves. As Christians and as Christian workers' movements, we want to contribute to a different, better world. We are committed to making these demands a reality:
- Our solidarity is concretised in our commitment to workers, especially those who are particularly vulnerable. We are already designing concrete projects for solidarity and will continue to strengthen them.
- We facilitate and organise education (formation and popular education) and empowerment, on a personal and collective level, for emancipation and autonomy.
- We promote dialogue between the church and the working class. We draw the attention of the church to working conditions and demand positioning in terms of human dignity.
- We actively shape political change and get involved in political debates.
- To this end, we enter into dialogue with other organisations and work together with them for change.
- We take up the challenge that the climate crisis poses for us. This includes reflecting on it in its connection with social issues and bringing an informed stance to social debates based on our convictions.
- We call for a due diligence law (supply chain law) at EU level that effectively improves working conditions and environmental responsibility in supply chains. We act also in our countries to influence the EU.
Where we work locally, we have an eye on global structural injustices. We believe that everyone can contribute to the social change we need. Even when things are difficult - we do not give up hope. Hope is bold.
ECWM, Lisbon 25th September 2022
Europe, the war, God, people
In this year 2022, we will celebrate Europe Day (9 May) against the terrible backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
What can we Christians say?
As was also the case with COVID, it seems that the drama in Ukraine is once again raising questions about God, life and the human being. What is God doing in the face of all this? Where is God in the face of those empty streets, populated only by corpses, some with their hands tied behind their backs? Where is God in the face of those mothers desperate because they do not know how to free their children from panic, hunger or suffering beyond their little strength? How is it possible that God allows what is happening in Ukraine today? Or what happened in the various Auschwitzes of yesterday.
We want to be Christians and witnesses of the proposal of salvation and liberation that Jesus Christ offers to society and the world of work, but the people around us present us with these questions.
The problem of the "silence of God", Christians have had to endure since the beginning of time.
Confinement due to Covid-19 began two years ago and in Uganda, after almost two years workers have experienced unspeakable stories of suffering and despair. Many workers have lost their jobs due to the long period of confinement and unemployment levels have risen.
Uganda was one of the countries with the longest lockdown period, from 1 April 2020 to January 2022, when the economy was fully reactivated. Informal entrepreneurs had no income during this period and had to dip into their own savings, rely on government food aid or seek help from family and friends to survive. This means that during the period of closure, most workers found themselves in a subsistence economy.
The conditions of confinement have affected almost all sectors of the labour market. The number of people employed in Uganda has declined from 9 million in 2016/17 to 8.3 million in 2019/20. This led to many wage earners losing their jobs. Other workers were forced to close their businesses.
Due to the unemployment situation in the country, even before the pandemic, Uganda used to export labour to the Middle East, especially to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This was despite reports of poor working conditions. The number of Ugandan migrants has decreased from 25,363 in 2019 to 9,026 in 2020, due to the effects of the pandemic. This explains the extent of the impact of confinement on workers in Uganda and globally.
Video: The world's largest Sunday picnic blanket
In March 2022, it will be 1.701 years since the Decree of the Roman Emperor Constantine establishing Sunday as the Day of Rest throughout the Roman Empire. In several places in Europe, there are different initiatives to mark the celebration of the International Day of Labour-Free Sunday on 3 March.
In Germany, KAB – the Catholic Workers' Movement is using this day to express its deep concern about the future of the Free Sunday and is urging the political powers to continue to apply the law protecting Sunday as a day of rest in Germany. This movement for Free Sunday represents not only supporters of KAB - the Christian Workers' Movement of Germany, but countless people who see Sunday as a symbol of a life shaped in freedom and self-determination. In its commitment, the KAB stands alongside trade unions, major sports associations and other Christian churches. In fact, as in other countries in Europe, the protection of Free Sunday is repeatedly exposed to attacks by employers' associations, the retail sector and political parties, especially those in the liberal sector. These attacks are now using the economic crisis caused by pandemic restrictions to justify a general extension of the working week to 60 hours and a temporary permission to work on Sundays and public holidays.
Brothers, sisters, dear social poets,
1. Dear social poets
This is what I like to call you: social poets. You are social poets, because you have the ability and the courage to create hope where there appears to be only waste and exclusion. Poetry means creativity, and you create hope. With your hands you know how to shape the dignity of each person, of families and of society as a whole, with land, housing, work, care, and community. Thank you, because your dedication speaks with an authority that can refute the silent and often polite denials to which you have been subjected, or to which so many of our brothers and sisters are subjected. But, thinking of you, I am convinced that your dedication is above all a proclamation of hope. Seeing you reminds me that we are not condemned to repeat or to build a future based on exclusion and inequality, rejection or indifference; where the culture of privilege is an invisible and insurmountable power; and where being exploited and abused are common methods of survival. No! You know how to proclaim this very well. Thank you.
Thank you for the video we have just seen. I have read the reflections from the meeting, the testimonies of those who lived in these times of tribulation and anguish, the summary of their desires and their proposals. Thank you. Thank you for including me in the historical process that you are going through, and thank you for sharing with me this fraternal dialogue that seeks to see the great in the small and the small in the great, a dialogue that is born in the peripheries, a dialogue that reaches Rome and wherein we may all feel invited and engaged. “If we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue”,  and how much!
VIDEO MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 109th MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION (ILO)
I thank the Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder, who so graciously invited me to present this message to the World of Work Summit. This Conference has been convened at a crucial moment in social and economic history, which presents serious and far-reaching challenges to the entire world. In recent months, the International Labour Organization, through its periodic reports, has done a commendable job of dedicating particular attention to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
During this persistent crisis, we should continue to exercise “special care” for the common good. Many of the possible and expected upheavals have not yet manifested themselves; therefore, careful decisions will be required. The decrease in working hours in recent years has resulted in both job losses and a reduction in the working day of those who have kept their jobs. Many public services, as well as many businesses, have faced tremendous difficulties, some running the risk of total or partial bankruptcy. Throughout the world in 2020 we saw an unprecedented loss of employment.
In our haste to return to greater economic activity, at the end of the Covid-19 threat, let us avoid the past fixations on profit, isolation and nationalism, blind consumerism and denial of the clear evidence that signals discrimination against our “throwaway” brothers and sisters in our society. On the contrary, let us look for solutions that will help us build a new future of work based on decent and dignified working conditions, that originate in collective negotiation, and that promote the common good, a phrase that will make work an essential component of our care for society and Creation. In this sense, work is truly and essentially human. That is what it is about, being human.
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- Final Statement of the ECWM Seminar in Lisbon 2022: "Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Employment and Social Affairs - Experiences and Actions for Recovery"
- Europe Day 2022: Statement of European Christian Workers Movement (ECWM)
- May 1st: Covid19 Lockdown And Its Impact On Workers
- 1.701 good reasons to protect Sunday as the day of the rest
- Message of the Holy Father for the Popular Movements
- MCW England: MCW Review - September 2021 Issue
- MCW England: MCW Review - March 2022 Issue
- MCW England: MCW Review - April 2022 Issue
- MCW England: MCW Review - August 2022 Issue
- VIDEO MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 109th MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION (ILO)