||Issue No. 260||22 April 2005|
Interview: [email protected]
Unions: State of the Union
Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Legal: Leg Before Picket
Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Health: Cannabis Controversy
Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
History: Politics In The Pubs
Review: Three Bob's Worth
Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
The Locker Room
Pope Backs Rights At Work
While a staunch opponent of communism and liberation theology, Pope Benedict XVI was responsible for a series of statements and encyclicals supportive of workers’ rights to organise through trade unions.
As head of the Vatican's Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, he strongly endorsed the papal encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Work), which sets out the Vaticans views on the modern workplace.
He also penned the "Instruction On Christian Freedom And Liberation" for the Vatican, which differentiated trade unions from revolutionary political organizations.
"The Church encourages the creation and activity of associations such as trade unions which fight for the defence of the rights and legitimate interests of the workers and for social justice," he wrote in the 1986 document, which had the effect of setting official Vatican policy
The Instruction also back Laborem Exercens Benedict XVI's predecessor, John Paul II, which said that unions were more than just about securing wages and conditions for members but were also "a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people".
Unions were central to determining influences on "unjust relationships in the field of human labour", the encyclical said.
"History teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialised societies.
"It is the State that must conduct a just labour policy."
"People unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.
"It is always to be hoped that, thanks to the work of their unions, workers will not only have more, but above all be more:
"The whole labour process must be organized and adapted in such a way as to respect the requirements of the person and his or her forms of life."
Working People the Key
The Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning says the conditions of working people have always been a key concern of Catholic Social Teaching.
Manning pointed to the landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum issued in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII.
"All workers have a right to decent pay, safe and healthy conditions, and reasonable workloads that enable a proper balance between paid work and family life," said Leo.
"If through necessity or fear of a worse evil, the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will give him no better, he is the victim of force and injustice."
Pope Leo also slammed complex company structures and legal loopholes to avoid paying out workers' entitlements as a "crime that cries out to the avenging anger of heaven".
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