Pope calls for consideration of ‘universal basic wage’ for unprotected workers
By Vatican News
In a letter dated Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis has called for the consideration of a Universal Basic Wage “that would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”
The letter is addressed to World Popular Movements, some of whom he recollects meeting with when in Bolivia during an Apostolic Visit in 2015 and in the Vatican the following year.
“Now, in the midst of this pandemic, I think of you in a special way and wish to express my closeness to you,” he writes.
The Pope’s message comes at a time in which the pandemic is devastating the health and lives of so many, and consequently putting millions of jobs on the line and undermining local – and world – economies. In it, he expresses encouragement and solidarity with those Movements who aim to bring change to global systems and structures that exclude a multitude of workers.
In these days of great anxiety and hardship, the Pope notes, “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.”
He took the opportunity to thank the Popular Movements for the work they pursue. He acknowledges that work hardly ever receives the recognition it deserves, Pope Francis notes “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.”
A multitude of people suffering far from the limelight
He goes on to mention all those people suffering far from the eyes of the world:
The women, “who multiply loaves of bread in soup kitchens: two onions and a package of rice make up a delicious stew for hundreds of children.”
The sick and the elderly, “they never appear in the news,” he says, “nor do small farmers and their families who work hard to produce healthy food without destroying nature, without hoarding, without exploiting people’s needs.”
“I want you to know that our Heavenly Father watches over you, values you, appreciates you, and supports you in your commitment,”, the Pope writes.
He highlights how difficult it is for those who live in poverty and for the homeless “to stay at home.” In addition, he mentions the difficulty “for migrants, those who are deprived of freedom, and those in rehabilitation from an addiction.”
People, life and dignity at the centre
Again, thanking the Popular Movements for being there to help them make things less difficult and less painful, the Pope expresses his hope this may prove to be a moment of change.
“My hope is that governments understand that technocratic paradigms (whether state-centred or market-driven) are not enough to address this crisis or the other great problems affecting humankind. Now more than ever, persons, communities and peoples must be put at the centre, united to heal, to care and to share,” the Pope writes.
He underscores how such a multitude of persons have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. They, he said, have been hit twice as hard from the harms produced by a society marked by the “superficial pleasures that anaesthetize so many consciences.”
“Street vendors, recyclers, carnival workers, small farmers, construction workers, seamstresses, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable. This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights,” says Pope Francis.
The three Ts
He goes on to point to the need to reflect on “life after the pandemic”. Its grave consequences are already being felt. This calls for an integral human development that is based on “the central role and initiative of the people in all their diversity, as well as on universal access to those three Ts that you defend: Trabajo (work), Techo (housing), and Tierra (land and food).
The Pope concludes with the hope that our sleepy consciences will be shaken, giving way to a “humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the centre.”
“Our civilization — so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself”, he says.
Finally, Pope Francis encourages the Popular Movements to stand firm in their struggle, caring for each other as brothers and sisters. He then assures them of his prayers and blessings.