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Workers’ Apostolate – the Need of the Hour

posted Apr 27, 2018, 2:25 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 27, 2018, 2:25 AM ]
May Day is celebrated across the world to honour the dignity of labour. It stems from the efforts of the Labour Union Movement to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Pope Francis, in a letter at the conclusion of a conference on Labour in 2017, added "Work is about more than just doing something for money, but about cooperating with Christ's work of redemption in how we care for others and the earth." 

"According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than mere doing; it is, above all, a mission," the Pope said last November."We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve Creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in His redemptive mission, when by our activity, we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbour." 

We are dedicating this issue of The Examiner to the Workers who form a major group in our society. We are called to recognise the dignity of the worker. There is dignity in work. Through work, human beings participate in Creation, and help realise God's plan on earth. Work honours the gifts and talents that God has given to each one of us. Work is 'for the worker, and not the worker for work.' (Laborem Exercens - 'On Human Work', Pope John Paul II, 1981, #6) 

The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate, and all workers must be paid a wage sufficient to support themselves and their families. 

The Church teaches [Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), Pope John XXII, 1961, #71; Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2433-2435] that workers have certain rights, including: 

Just wages which provide them the means to live a human life and care for their family; The right to gainful employment; Freedom from unjust discrimination; Freedom to join unions and to strike when it is necessary. 

Other factors too enter into the assessment of a just wage: namely, the effective contribution which each individual makes to the economic effort, the financial state of the company for which he works, the requirements of the general good of the particular country, and finally the requirements of the common good of the universal family of nations. 

We consider it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfil their family obligations in a worthy manner. (Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II, 1981, #15) 

So what does this mean for us today? 

The teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity of the worker has many implications for us in the present. Below are some examples: 

Paying employees a just wage; Providing employees with a safe working environment; Working to end unjust discrimination; Working to end forced labour; Changing our buying habits to support companies that treat workers fairly. 

We can each do our part to respect the dignity of work and the worker, through our hiring and employment practices, through advocacy for better working conditions, just wages and for an end to unjust discrimination, and through our daily purchase decisions. 

We must consequently continue to study the situation of the worker. There is a need for solidarity movements among, and with, the workers. The Church must firmly be committed to this cause, in fidelity to Christ, and to be truly the "Church of the poor". 

Bishop Allwyn D'Silva is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, in charge of the Social Apostolate.