How „A Poverty of Health‟ was fashioned! The MCW‟s National Conference in November 2021, focused on health matters. Looking back at the NEC minutes and discussions it was an obvious subject to cover. The NEC were mindful, how over decades, there had been a deep divide between the health, access to resources, preventative services and the health outcomes of social classes. The „Black Report‟, commissioned in 1977 by a Labour government and published August 1980, highlighted the inequalities in health and the need for government intervention and spending. Read our April 2022 issue:
World Day for Decent Work is a day to remember; to remind ourselves of the struggles that workers have had to face in striving for their rights and seeking justice for themselves and their families over the years. Regrettably we also have to mark it as a prompt to continue seeking rights and justices that have still to be realised. Sadly and shamefully many of the hard won gains that contributed to a better working life in the past have over the years been weakened or overturned. In addition we face new challenges as different ways of working again threaten and undermine our dignity, rights and justice for decent work. Read our March 2022 issue:
Truth of Experience. Where do you start? Well, as famously sang in The Sound of Music, “Let‟s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start ..”. For us that starting point is our lives! Joseph Cardijn, the founder of the Young Christian Workers believed in the importance of young workers starting with their lived experiences so as to bring to the fore the contradictions between their lives and their human dignity, their self-worth. The MCW follows this same path in reviewing our own lives and that of others. José A. Pagola1 notes how Jesus‟ language was unique. Referring to the parables he writes „There is nothing artificial or forced in his words; everything is clear and simple. He talked about life... all Galilee is present in his language; its work days and feast days, its sky and seasons, its flocks and vineyards, its planning and harvesting, its beautiful lakes and its population of fishermen and farmers.‟ We would add women looking after the homes, fetching and carrying, coping as widows with little, if any income or trying to seek justice; all showing determination to live their lives as best they could whilst breaking the mould that their expected roles imposed. In this edition of our Review all articles and items take on the same starting point; the reality of workers‟ lives and that of others.
The‟ Pandemic through our Eyes‟ is an update of the previous version from July 2020. Written at the request of the ACO Movement, Spain, it reflects Reviews of Life and enquiry material from members up to April 2021. The depth and breadth of poverty, before and after the pandemic, is exposed by the rise of food bank demands as noted by the Trussell Trust; a demand likely to rise with the ending of the furlough scheme and the £20.00 universal credit top-up. Also, Pope Francis‟ address to the International Labour Organisation illustrates how, comprehending and appreciating the diversity of workers‟ realities throughout the world needs to be the starting point for action at all political and economic levels. Whilst the surge of poverty is more widely recognised some issues may still remain hidden. The increase in the use of credit or debit card transactions during the pandemic can be detrimental to others. Why? Because, of the decrease in „free-to-use‟ ATM machines. Again, it is more likely to be those with little cash reserves and/or older people who depend on the availability of access to cash in hand for budgeting or out of habit.
Pat Jones and Paul Edwards feature in this Review both instigated by the lived experience of one of their parents. Paul‟s father, a merchant seafarer, was a member of the Apostleship of the Sea2 . Paul reviews a book giving a personal testimony of a retired chaplain. The work of these chaplains is provoked through identifying a need because of the realities that are faced but well hidden. The experience of Pat Jones‟ mother has triggered a unique research project examining the experience of women who joined the YCW in the 1950-1970s. She is seeking women who would be willing to look back at their experiences and reflect on them with her. It is the Truth of Experience that provokes us to see things anew: To question more deeply our own experience and that of others acts to highlight the disparity between realities and our belief in the Truth of Faith.
1 (Jesus. An Historical approximation) PRE (Pastoral Renewal Exchange) 159 November 2020, Page 16
2 Now known as Stella Maris
Back in September 2014 the MCW Review featured an article by a Primary School Teacher and her colleagues sharing their experiences of working life. It describes how some had chosen to go part-time just so that they didn‟t have to work weekends which is what the result of full-time teaching actually meant in practice. The demands of work time and balancing family life meant exhausted teachers. Now, 4 years later newspaper headlines point to the fact that there is an “out flux” of teachers lining up to leave (Guardian Education, 10th April 2018). This June edition mirrors the same phenomena, albeit highlighting how the demands of the workplace are affecting the health of workers.
Various political parties have supported quotas being introduced into public services and contracted-out services; companies have set up exacting timescales of service provision, delivery and response times which have met with general popular approval. As a result, expectations have risen within the general population. However, these populist measures when introduced failed to acknowledge that whilst we are customers, travellers, students, patients, we are also the workers who have to provide and maintain this same level of immediate service demand. Individuals can allocate themselves or be allocated into particular compartments where they become at odds with each other and themselves particularly when, simultaneously, funding and resources are cut for a variety of reasons. Unsustainable and unworkable are words repeated as article after article in various newspapers refer to the widespread recognition of work-related stress. Long hours; not in control of how the job or role is carried out; no input into how the job could be improved; working towards goals and quotas that are more quantifiable than qualitative; all contribute to the stress factors being identified in too many places of work.
The statistics from the Health & Safety Executive reported in this edition underlies the presentation contents given at the various meetings marking International Workers‟ Memorial Day. The lost working days because of work demands demonstrate the conditions, pressure and obligations being made on and met by workers. Elizabeth, a young woman, set on being a good doctor and looking after those who needed health care could only come to one conclusion to save her own sanity: to leave; to walk away. Her article is telling in many ways. It highlights how, when pushed to step up and speak out; to stand up for yourself and those around you it results in a blame game. Consequently, solidarity is lost and the individual is isolated as if it is only their problem. Thus, any fundamental issue shaping all their lives gets lost and at the very least the workplace is fractured or, at worst, broken. Dr Caroline Elton is author of “Also Human: The inner Lives of Doctors”. One reviewer of this book, Rosie McConachie, seems to capture and sum up exactly the issues which Elizabeth was conveying, “the book looks at the ways the system fails doctors and medical students and to some extend the ways some doctors fail one another.”
The MCW welcomed Otto Meier and Toni Santamaria in preparation for the European Seminar taking place in Birmingham during October 2018. With the theme Digital Work, anytime, anywhere and its impact on workers and their families the experiences in this edition, although not specifically about digitalisation, are more than likely to be replicated and will inevitably beg the question how we can protect the rights of all workers.
Page 1 of 2