28 April 2010
Reflection of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Ceremony of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Dublin Castle to mark Workers Memorial Day 2010
People are the natural wealth of any society and every person, young or old, should be enabled as far as possible to bring their contribution to society at the highest possible level for as long as possible. Poverty is the inability to achieve God given talent. It is not just lack of monetary ability.
Investment in people means also creating an environment at work where they can be safe and where their creative capacities can grow. Safe workplaces require norms that must be respected. But safe workplaces are more. Workers are never just employees. They are always people and must enjoy the respect and protection that people deserve. You can have workplaces with all the norms printed and all the signs and warnings in place but which lack a real culture of safety — that is a culture where the worker is respected fully as a person and his or her identity is cherished.
Safe work places are as much about relationships as about norms and outward signs. It is in interrelationships on many levels that a person lives, and that society becomes more “personalised”. Inter-subjectivity enables people to form a society and thus to act in solidarity. But individuality cannot be subordinated totally to the common good.
The individual can today often feel trapped between the traditional two poles of the State and the marketplace. This sense of entrapment and disorientation is accentuated by the fact of globalisation, in which the market exists without boundaries and the international community exists still only in an embryonic framework, and is thus inadequate to provide for the effective governance of global economic goods and global security. The challenge today is to establish new forms of networks of intermediate communities which give life to specific networks of solidarity on a global level. The role of the International Labour Organisation is vital here.
The economy is only one aspect and one dimension of the whole of human activity. Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, the worker becomes looked on simply as a producer or consumer of goods and not as a subject who produces and consumes in order to live in family and society. If economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person, it inevitably ends up by alienating and oppressing the worker and impoverishing society.
If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in human and ethical formation, then it is not progress at all, but a threat.
Workers are not disposable goods. Their protection can never be subordinated to exclusively economic goals and profit. Workers are not disposable goods. They are people, with bodies and souls, with talents and emotions, with strength but also with sentiments. A safe workplace is a place where workers’ integrity as people is cherished, where workers can flourish as persons and bring their unique gifts. A safe workplace is somewhere where the worker can come in the morning and where his or her family and loved ones do not live in fear that one day they may not return, abruptly ending the dreams of many.
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