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!
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.
RERUM NOVARUM (15th May, 1891) and the birth of Catholic Social Doctrine
On 15th May, 1891, Pope Leo XIII published encyclical RERUM NOVARUM. This was the birth of Catholic Social Doctrine. As Church, it was the will of looking at a new future where strong economic, social, political, spiritual and cultural changes were been forecasting. In this 2021 Jubilee Year, we take a look at these 130 years of history.
The publication of Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum is considered the birth of Catholic Social Doctrine. But as is usual with births, it had a long “gestation”.
XIX century was full of shocks: up until then, most of population lived from agriculture and, a smaller part, from the trade. The invention of machine does not only lead to the separation of work and capital, but also to the concentration of workers. This meant a great economic upheaval, following of a social one.
Since more than a year, our planet is facing to a health and social crisis that affects to everybody. But, not all the social groups suffer its consequences in the same way
The popular classes, the workers and the employees are the most exposed to the risk of contagion. The mortality rate in these social categories is much higher than in the wealthy
The popular classes, the most affected ones
The working conditions have become more difficult and the necessary prevention measures have provoked a significant rise of workload for some employees who cannot do these tasks remotely.
Democracy thrives on positive experiences and participation
The idea of work-free Sundays is rooted in Judaism and thus with its 2500 years of history the oldest social legislation of humanity. In the Old Testament in the account of the creation of the world, the end of the story is not the creation of man, but God's rest after work on the seventh day. (Gen: 2,1-3). The completion of labour lies in rest. This right to rest should be guaranteed for everyone – for women, men, servants, slaves and foreigners, as well as for animals and finally, nature. (Deut: 5,14)
In Europe work-free Sundays are among the oldest of cultural assets and therefore should be safeguarded as a cultural heritage, a legitimate legal claim. They should serve as a safety net and protection for people and nature from self- and external exploitation. In today’s work-life the work-free Sunday can be understood as the margin between externally directed and self-determined time. According to the Christian-Jewish idea of human beings, every person is more than what they achieve workwise. To regularly take time off, in the sense of the “good life for all”, can and should strengthen the awareness of unconfined human dignity. The Sabbath or Sunday is the reliable framework for this.
The meeting of the ECWM coordination group took place on 13 February 2021. The circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic forced the group to meet online, a new challenge that brings it to work and plan the future of the European movement in a different way. The meeting was attended by the President, Olinda M., (Portugal), Chaplain Josep J. (Spain), Treasurer Armin H. (Switzerland), Coordinator Toni M. (Spain), as well as representatives of the movements from Spain (HOAC and ACO), Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland (KAB and CTC), Austria and England, and representatives of the WMCW world movement: Fátima C. (Portugal) Co-Chair, Mariléa D. (Brazil) Secretary General, Bernard R. (France) Chaplain and Philippe Ch. (France) Treasurer.
The usual agenda items were discussed, as well as the preparation of various amendments to the statutes to be discussed at the General Assembly scheduled for September 2021, which will be held, if possible physically in Lisbon, or on-line.
On 16 October 2020 the ECWM held its annual general assembly. This time it was held telematically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representatives from 11 movements from 9 European countries took part. Three representatives of the WMCW (World Movement of Christian Workers) also took part
A highlight has been the election of the new president. Olinda Marques, a member of the LOC-MTC movement in Portugal, was unanimously elected to replace Petr Koutný, from the KAP movement in the Czech Republic, who had held the presidency for two years.
In addition, the activities carried out by the ECWM and its member movements in the period since the previous General Assembly, held in Ostend, Belgium in October 2019, have been reported.
We are pleased to have been able to hold this fraternal meeting, albeit through screens, and we have set ourselves up for the next assembly, scheduled for September 2021 in Lisbon.
Prayer for our hurting world
to you we come in these dark and hard times.
To you we come to explain you the pain and death
that causes the pandemic that decimates our peoples.
And we put the words of the psalmist into our mouths:
"Say to the Lord: “My stronghold, my refuge,
my God in whom I trust!”
He will rescue you… from the deadly pestilence…
He will give you refuge under his wings.
You shall not fear the terror of the night…
nor the pestilence that stalks by night,
and the plague that destroys at noonday (Ps 91,2-6).
“Comfort, give comfort to my people” (Is 40: 1). With these words of hope and trust from the prophet Isaiah, we start this Christmas message addressed to all members of movements which make up ECWM, in these hard times that our world and our Europe are suffering. COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll in many of our fellow citizens, both in health and economic aspects, venting its rage over those who suffer the worst living conditions. Moreover, many European citizens have died in our countries because of this pandemic.
“Because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2: 7). Many of the precarious situations that European citizens suffer, were experienced by Jesus, the Son of God, at his birth. A situation of poverty lived in these times by many people: workers fired, jobs destroyed, the sick, psychological damage, deaths and other consequences that deteriorate us as individuals and society.
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." (Lk 2: 15). The health and working conditions that our society live call us to get close the manger of Bethlehem and to watch in it to Jesus who is born in the midst of our world wounded by precariousness and pain. This is why we repeat the action of shepherds when we go to those who suffer most this pandemic. Make solidarity, fraternal love and the dedication of our time be the hallmark of our visit to the poor and humble manger that our world is today.
Requiem for a Europe that must die, ode to a hoped Europe
1. In these Covid-19 days we see how the society and the popular and working classes are organizing themselves in solidarity and mutual support networks. We see the rebirth of community action and attention to the most unprotected people. We see how the bold work of health community is recognized every day, the central importance of domestic workers and those who care the sick and dependent people, the heroism of so many daily saints, as pope Francis likes to be called, despite to all difficulties and despite that we have the individualism virus inoculated since forever, and even more so by this predatory and fratricidal capitalism that has brought us to the edge of precipice.
2. For that reason, if the human tissue is being remade from the smallest, with many drops of love, humility and generosity, we aspire to see these dynamics in the authorities which govern us and also in the enterprises where we work. Thus, we are hurt to see how the governments of member States in Europe and in the community, institutions reproduce, in their own interest, some dynamics that have already taken place, as in the financial crisis 2008 and that must be overcome at this so serious moment.
To our brothers and sisters of popular movements and organizations
I often recall our previous meetings: two at the Vatican and one in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and I must tell you that this “souvenir” warms my heart. It brings me closer to you, and helps me re-live so many dialogues we had during those times. I think of all the beautiful projects that emerged from those conversations and took shape and have become reality. Now, in the midst of this pandemic, I think of you in a special way and wish to express my closeness to you. In these days of great anxiety and hardship, many have used war-like metaphors to refer to the pandemic we are experiencing. If the struggle against COVID-19 is a war, then you are truly an invisible army, fighting in the most dangerous trenches; an army whose only weapons are solidarity, hope, and community spirit, all revitalizing at a time when no one can save themselves alone. As I told you in our meetings, to me you are social poets because, from the forgotten peripheries where you live, you create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.
I know that you nearly never receive the recognition that you deserve, because you are truly invisible to the system. Market solutions do not reach the peripheries, and State protection is hardly visible there. Nor do you have the resources to substitute for its functioning. You are looked upon with suspicion when through community organization you try to move beyond philanthropy or when, instead of resigning and hoping to catch some crumbs that fall from the table of economic power, you claim your rights. You often feel rage and powerlessness at the sight of persistent inequalities and when any excuse at all is sufficient for maintaining those privileges. Nevertheless, you do not resign yourselves to complaining: you roll up your sleeves and keep working for your families, your communities, and the common good. Your resilience helps me, challenges me, and teaches me a great deal.
LET US REMAIN UNITED
This is the time to show our commitment to European values
The COVID-19 pandemic and its dire consequences have hit Europe and the entire world with full strength. Putting to the test every person, family and community, the present crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities and apparent certainties of our politics, economics and societies.
Nevertheless, these trying times are also allowing us to re-discover our common humanity as brothers and sisters. We think of the many people who are sowing hope every day by exercising charity and solidarity. We would like to pray with deep gratitude for all those who serve their fellow human beings with empathy and warmth by supporting them selflessly: medical doctors, nursing staff, providers of basic services, law and order forces – and persons involved in pastoral care. We wish to pray for all the people who are suffering during this crisis - in particular the sick, the elderly, the poor, the excluded and children experiencing family instability. We also remember all those who passed away in our prayers.
European Christian Workers Movement (ECWM) expresses its full support to all the initiatives taking place on 3rd March that is the International Free-Work Sunday Day. In this year 2020, the ECWM offers the following reflection.
In the world of work we are in a new situation that asks us to open new paths to fraternity, solidarity and sensitivity to suffering and injustice so that it is possible for people to be and to live. The social model in which we live, shaped mainly by the way of human work is conceived and treated, is a great obstacle for social organization and social relations and institutions to favour what they should always serve: that people can realize their being and can live according to their dignity, that we can realize our humanity in image and likeness of God. This is what is radically at stake today and for the future: that people can realize their being and live according to their dignity, and it is very important that we really take charge of this situation in which the social model that has been configured places us:
Final statement of the Seminar "Digital work: between the desire for self-determination and the need for statutory provisions and labour law regulations ", held from 17th to 19th October, 2019 in Ostend (Belgium)
A dignified life for EVERYONE in the digital age!
The European Christian Workers Movement (EBCA/ECWM/MTCE) held a seminar entitled "Digital work: between the desire for self-determination and the need for statutory provisions and labour law regulations” from 17-19 October 2019 in Ostend, Belgium. 37 representatives of member organisations from more than 11 European countries participated in the seminar, and all contributed their experience and perspectives.
Conclusions of dialogues
Digitalisation is in full swing, advancing at an accelerated pace and changing our lives in both the private and working environments. It is a phenomenon that affects our whole society and, obviously, has a great attraction, which feeds its development and importance. However, this phenomenon - like many others - can be described as ambivalent and we understand that it is our task to contribute to the configuration of this process by understanding its principles, reflecting its effects on the basis of our horizon of values and considering how and what we can contribute to its configuration as actors. It is also important that we examine the use of digital media with self-criticism.
It is striking that there is a gap in society with regard to digitalisation. On the other hand, there are also a large number of people who, until now, have had little or no access to the new media and who, because of the great importance of digitalisation in the public and work spheres, run the risk of losing contact with society. This problem is worsened by the fact that digital development is very fast and is progressing in all directions at such speed that until now political leaders have regulated barely the process, which aggravates especially the situation of those who are discarded in this process.
In this context, a social message about the future design of a digital world of work is needed, and which we want to start with our calls to the church and society. They arise, among other things, in the following topics:
- Lifelong learning
- Ensuring employment in the transformation process
- Working time and private time with blurred limits
- Ecological issue - e.g. exploited countries supplying raw materials and energy in a global context
- Substitution of economic growth as the main development criterion by values such as solidarity, the common good, etc.
- Fiscal justice and distribution of wealth (prevention of tax evasion, tax harmonization, awareness of the positive dimension of taxation, etc.).
- Development of social security systems (basic income...)
- Work-free Sunday
- Valuation of other forms of work (care, services to society...)
In the political sphere, a dignified life of all people is our criterion in the case of digitalisation. In Laudato si, no. 128, Pope Francis says: "The broader objective should always be to allow them (human beings) a dignified life through work." To achieve this goal, we talk inside our movements and externally, we bring our specific vision in dialogue with representatives of the Church (COMECE, Caritas, Justice and Peace, local Episcopal Conferences, IYCW, ICYCW...), civil society (Trade Unions, NGO´s...) and politics at all levels. An exemplary action is Decent Work Day, which is celebrated on 7th October each year.
Ostend, 19th October, 2019
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