Over seven weeks, members of the Tobar Mhuire Team reflect
on the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching; Solidarity, Human Rights,
Dignity of Human Life, Call to Family & Community, Dignity &
Rights of Work, Preferential Option for the Poor, and Care for
Passionist Student, Frank Trias offers the following reflection on Right to Work.
“For the worker deserves their Wages” Luke 10:7
Feeling short-changed? Feel your effort is neither appreciated nor reflected in the reward you are given despite your hard work? If so, you are not alone in feeling this way. Catholic Social Teaching has long been an advocate for human rights and in particular for workers’ rights. Take Dorothy Day and the still active Catholic Workers movement for inspiration. However it seems that during the gloom of the economic depression we are constantly being reminded of, in the media and by well-paid politicians, a new modern challenge has emerged. On these shores everyone has the right to work, legal citizens anyway, but the challenge is finding work.
The lack of opportunity married with tough economic times has bred a new kind of social injustice. Many who are lucky enough to have employment will still be living below the bread-line and struggling to get by. It is clear that the national minimum wage has nowhere near matched the rise in inflation over the past decade. Job shortage has led to fierce competition amongst job-seekers with many being left behind and those fortunate enough to work taking any scraps thrown to them by opportunistic employers. For many families this means parents, sometimes single, having to take on two or maybe three jobs to survive .The rot has set in and the degradation of community and family life continues to alienate humanity from itself in the materialistic western culture.
However rather than jump on the already overflowing bandwagon of prophets of doom out there (it is easy to point the finger), let us take Psalm 139 as inspiration “for even darkness is like light to you”. For with every injustice comes an opportunity for action.
One shining light amongst this current injustice is the ‘Living Wage Foundation’. As this is a short piece I will simply highlight their aim - to challenge people, employers and employees, to look at the reality of the national minimum wage in comparison with what is considered a national living wage. Many organizations have already signed up and are proud to flash their badge as ‘living wage employers’ and not merely minimum (slave) wage employers. The foundation is also empowering individuals by educating them with the facts about employment rather than beat them down with petty gratitude. The ‘Living Wage Foundation’ came about through the initiative of localized community groups on the margins. I was unsurprised to learn that amongst them were religious groups. My own encounter with the foundation came in the shape of an exuberant group of Catholic school girls (some of whom weren’t even old enough to work!) doing great street work in promoting the cause. The idea of a fair wage is not something new, like much of Catholic Social Teaching it is often hidden like a precious pearl in an oyster on the bottom of the sea bed of Catholic doctrine. However back in 1981 the colossal figure and advocate of human rights, the late John Paul II, was already promoting not only a living wage but a family wage in his letter on the dignity of human work Laborem Exercens. Predicting the signs of the times he saw that an individual not only needs to support themselves but also a family if they want to remain stable.
Many leading politicians have already backed the living wage in London. However words need action and it is time the government took steps in making the living wage, and who knows maybe even a family wage, the new national minimum. So if you are falling on hard times and you feel there is a little more your employer or local MP could do to contribute then why not get informed? Rally some support and, without anarchy or uprising, state your case for a living wage because as Scripture says
“for the worker deserves their wages” Luke 10:7
Living Wage Foundation:
Catholic Worker London:
Laborem Exercens (In English):
Catholic Social Teaching UK: Life and Work
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