Pope Francis has cautioned managers who close businesses, shut factories or restructure firms without fully considering the impact on workers and their families, explaining how they are committing a “very grave sin.”
While addressing tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square for his weekly audience, Pope Francis said he was worried about how families might be affected by labour disputes, adding that he was equally concerned about the problem in many countries.
He was making the case in support of staff at the Italian branch of Sky television who are currently involved in a dispute over 200 redundancies and 300 relocations. Hear the Pontiff:
“Work gives us dignity. Those who are responsible for people, managers, are obliged to do everything so that every woman and every man can work and thus be able to walk with their heads held high, to look other people in the face with dignity.
“Those who, for economic schemes or in order to make deals that are not fully transparent, close factories, shut down enterprises and take work away from people, that person commits a very grave sin.”
Italy, like other countries around the world, has seen companies and factories close as production is moved abroad to take advantage of lower labour costs or as a result of restructuring and mergers.
Sky Italia has been hit by strikes by employees opposed to its plan to move most of its operations to Milan from Rome, which unions say could lead to hundreds of job cuts and forced transfers.
In another case that has dominated Italian newspapers, reports reveal that up to 2,000 people may lose their jobs in restructuring at loss-making airline Alitalia, whose failure to fend off low-cost competition is widely blamed on decades of poor management.
The spectre of job losses in these and other cases has been exacerbated by the fear of long-term unemployment for those affected. Italy’s jobless rate stands at about 12 percent and youth unemployment is close to 40 percent.
This is not the first time that Francis has intervened in an Italian labour dispute. The Argentine pontiff is known to be a regular critic of capitalism and has strongly defended the rights of workers since becoming the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics four years ago.
In the first major missive of his papacy, he denounced growing inequality and the “idolatory of money” while last year he described the globalised economic system as “structurally perverse.”
In September 2014, he attacked German steel group ThyssenKrupp’s plans to reduce staff numbers at a loss-making Italian plant.
Such observations have led to him being branded the “Marxist” pope in some quarters. But Pope Francis has denied any sympathy for communist ideas, joking once that the Marxists had stolen all their best lines from the bible.
Last month, at the biennial International Forum on Migration and Peace, Pope Francis had also laid out his vision of refugees, migrants, and just societies. The pontiff stressed the need for “person-centered,” not politically-driven, policies and responses to migrants and refugees.