19 Dec SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO EXECUTIVE OFFICERS AND DELEGATE OF ITALIAN GENERAL CONFEDERATION OF LABOR (CGIL)
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I welcome you and thank the Secretary General for his words. This meeting with
you, who form one of the historic Italian trade union organisations, invites me to
once again express my closeness to the world of work, especially to the people and
families who are struggling the most.
There is no union without workers and there are no free workers without a union.
We live in an age which, despite technological progress – and sometimes precisely
because of that perverse system which calls itself technocracy (cf. Laudato si’,
106-114) – has partially disappointed the expectations of justice in the workplace.
And this requires above all to start afresh from the value of work, as a meeting
place between personal vocation and the social dimension. Working allows the
person to realize himself, to experience fraternity, to cultivate social friendship and
to improve the world. The encyclicals Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti can help to
undertake training courses that offer reasons for commitment in the times we are
Work builds society. It is a primary experience of citizenship, in which a community
of destiny takes shape, the fruit of everyone’s commitment and talents; this
community is much more than the sum of the different professions, because
everyone recognizes himself in the relationship with others and for others. And so,
in the ordinary fabric of connections between people and economic and political
projects, the fabric of “democracy” is given life day by day. It is a fabric that is not
made at the table in some building, but with creative industriousness in factories,
workshops, agricultural, commercial, artisan companies, construction sites, public
administrations, schools, offices, and so on. It comes “from below”, from reality.
Dear friends, if I recall this vision, it is because one of the tasks of the union is that
of educating in the sense of work, promoting fraternity among the workers. This
formative concern cannot be omitted. It is the salt of a healthy economy, capable of
making the world better. Indeed, «human costs are always also economic costs and
economic dysfunctions always involve human costs as well. Giving up investing in
people to obtain a greater immediate profit is a bad deal for society” (Encyclical
Laudato si’, 128).
Alongside training, it is always necessary to point out the distortions of work. The
culture of waste has crept into the folds of economic relations and has also invaded
the world of work. This can be seen, for example, where human dignity is trampled
on by gender discrimination – why should a woman earn less than a man? Why
does a woman, as soon as it is seen that she begins to “get fat”, send her away so
as not to pay maternity leave? –; you can see it in youth precariousness – why
should life choices be delayed due to chronic precariousness? –; or again in the
culture of redundancy; and why are the most strenuous jobs still so poorly
protected? Too many people suffer from lack of work or undignified work: their
faces deserve to be listened to, they deserve union commitment.
I would especially like to share a few concerns with you. First, the safety of
workers. Your Secretary General mentioned it. There are still too many dead – I see
them in the newspapers: there are someone every day – too many mutilated and
injured in the workplace! Every death at work is a defeat for the whole of society.
Rather than counting them at the end of each year, we should remember their
names, because they are people and not numbers. Let’s not allow profit and the
person to be put on the same level! The idolatry of money tends to trample
everyone and everything and does not preserve differences. It is about training to
take the lives of employees at heart and educating yourself to take safety
regulations seriously: only a wise alliance can prevent those “accidents” which are
tragedies for families and communities.
A second concern is the exploitation of people as if they were performance
machines. There are forms of violence, such as illegal hiring and the slavery of
laborers in agriculture or on construction sites and in other workplaces, the
constraint to exhausting shifts, the underhanded game in contracts, contempt for
motherhood, the conflict between work and family . How many contradictions and
how many wars between the poor are consumed around work! In recent years
there has been an increase in the so-called “working poor”: people who, despite
having a job, are unable to support their families and give hope for the future. The
union – listen carefully to this – is called to be the voice of those who have no voice.
You have to make noise to give voice to the voiceless. In particular, I recommend
that you pay attention to young people, who are often forced into precarious,
inadequate, even enslaving contracts. I thank you for every initiative that promotes
active labor policies and protects people’s dignity.
Furthermore, in these years of the pandemic, the number of those who resign from
work has grown. Young and old are dissatisfied with their profession, with the
atmosphere in the workplace, with the forms of contract, and prefer to resign. They
look for other opportunities. This phenomenon does not mean disengagement, but
the need to humanise work. Also in this case, the trade union can carry out
prevention work, aiming at the quality of the work and accompanying people
towards a relocation more suited to each one’s talent.
Dear friends, I invite you to be “sentinels” of the world of work, generating alliances
and not sterile oppositions. People thirst for peace, especially in this historical
moment, and everyone’s contribution is fundamental. Educating for peace even in
workplaces, often marked by conflicts, can become a sign of hope for everyone.
Even for future generations.
Thank you for what you do and will do for the poor, migrants, fragile and disabled
people, the unemployed. Don’t forget to take care of those who don’t join the union
because they have lost confidence; and to make room for youthful responsibility.
I entrust you to the protection of Saint Joseph, who knew the beauty and the effort
of doing one’s job well and the satisfaction of earning bread for the family. Let’s
look at him and at his ability to educate through work. I wish a peaceful Christmas
to all of you and your loved ones. The Lord blesses you and Our Lady keep you. And
if you can, pray for me. Thank you!