Pope Francis meets with directors and delegates of CGIL Pope Francis meets with directors and delegates of CGIL 

Pope Francis: Without unions, there are no free workers

Addressing members of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, Pope Francis calls on union members to be “sentinels” of the world of labour, building alliances rather than stirring up “sterile oppositions.”

By Christopher Wells

“There is no union without workers, and there are no free workers without a union,” Pope Francis said on Monday, during an audience for members of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL).

In his address, the Pope lamented that in spite of modern technological advances – “and sometimes precisely because of that perverse system called technocracy” – our expectations for justice in labour relations fall short of the ideal.

Labour builds society

The Holy Father insisted that work or labour “builds society,” and is a “primary form of citizenship” from which the community takes its form. He maintained that it is through the relationships between persons and their economic and political projects that “the fabric of ‘democracy’ is brought to life day-by-day.”

He emphasized the need for unions to educate people in a “sense of work,” building fraternity among workers and emphasizing that people are more important than profits.

Distortions in the world of labour

Similarly, the Pope said it is necessary to point out the “distortions” in the field of labour, including aberrations such as gender discrimination, the precariousness of work for young people, and the “culture of redundancy.” He also expressed his concerns for worker safety and the exploitation of workers.

“There are still too many deaths, mutilations, and injuries in the workplace!”

Pope Francis insisted that unions are called to be “a voice for the voiceless," emphasizing, "You have to make noise to give a voice to those who have no voice." In particular, he thanked unions for caring for the young, “who are often forced into precarious, inadequate, and enslaving contracts”; and for “every initiative that promotes active labour policies and protects people's dignity.”

Recognizing the tendency of young and old to leave their jobs in search of other opportunities, the Pope insisted this should be seen not as a sign of “disengagement,” but as a call “to humanize work.” Unions can be proactive in this area, he said, focusing on the quality of work and helping people find situations more suited to their talents.

Sentinels of the world of work

Pope Francis then invited union members to be “sentinels of the world of work,” building alliances and promoting peace in the workplace.

“Educating for peace, even in the workplace, often marked by conflict, can become a sign of hope for everyone, and also for future generations.”

The Pope concluded his address by thanking unionists for their efforts in favour of the poor, migrants, the weak and people with disabilities, and the unemployed. And he invited them to also care for those who choose not to join unions because the unions have lost their trust; while at the same time calling them to “make room for youth responsibility”; before finally entrusting them to the protection of St Joseph.

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19 December 2022, 11:40