Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Resonding to Sweatshops





Speaking on the tragedy in Bangladesh Pope Francis said,
“That [38 Euros] is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labour,” he said. “Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation!
“Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!
“There are many people who want to work but cannot. When a society is organised in a way that not everyone is given the chance to work, that society is not just.”
I haven't found that any official site, yet.

Primark, and apparently Tescos, sell clothing made in this factory, now I don't know if any of our Bishops have written to either of these companies to tell them what the Holy Father has said or to say their own bit about the scandal of British companies not caring for their producers overseas. I hope after their next plenary meeting they will decide whose responsibility it is and sit down with the relevant commision and write.
The problem is it will be October before something appears on the Bishop's website. The letter I published earlier today from Bishop Egan will get to the public either through the dioocesan site or via blogs like mine, not through the Eccleston Square site of the Bishop's of England and Wales. It is a very good letter, it should be reported, it is unlikely to be picked up nationally because journalists don't trawl through diocesan websites. There is need for the Bishop's of E&W press office to report what is being said by our Bishops, which sometimes can be quite exciting and relevant, rather than the created news of the various commissions.

19 comments:

Gertrude said...

Worry not Father, it has already been 'tweeted' and 'retweeted' on Twitter, so I am sure it will be seen,

nickbris said...

We have exported our sweatshops to those not in a position to defend themselves.

The Trade Unions protected our workers to some extent but they were virtually destroyed in the 80's & 90's by the "businessmen" who have brought this country to it's knees and the workers to living on benefits.

Nothing will change until we bring the work back.

Independent said...

Had the Good Samaritan not had a favourable balance sheet he would have been able to help anyone.

Jonathan said...

Although there is some nice sentiment in the Pope's statement there is so much nonsense that he has undermined his authority.

“not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!"

If a company doesn't look at the balance sheets and doesn't make a profit then how does His Holiness expect that company to pay the wages?

The Bones said...

The Holy Father is talking about fleecing the poor and exploiting them for the sake of profit.

Primark have got loaded out of the misery of their employees.

The Church has ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE condemned this kind of exploitation.

Check out the writings of St Anthony of Padua.

Deacon Augustine said...

Balance sheets and profits are just as important for the long term job-security of the employees as they are for the shareholders. Businesses could not exist without them, and there would be no jobs without them.

On the one hand, businesses must make a profit from their employees' labour or they cease to exist, on the other it is a sin to exploit people. The problem is that it can be very difficult to establish a clear dividing line between legitimately profiting from your employees and exploiting them.

I don't think the Holy Father really helps matters by talking about employers "not giving a job" as though it is a right which people have to expect from them. We might have a right to work to support ourselves and our families, but nobody has a right to a job. Why anybody in their right mind would want one in the first place, I can't imagine. Much better to cut the employer out of the equation and keep the profits from your labours for yourself.

GOR said...

I think we should be more concerned with the conditions under which these workers labor, more so than with the amount of their wages. In some societies such labor is the only way of receiving any income at all – albeit a pittance to us and obvious exploitation. That goes to the governments of those countries and how their care - or lack of it - for the people’s well-being is addressed.

Over a century ago similar conditions prevailed in some factories here in the US – as in Britain and elsewhere. But through Child Labor laws and unionization that situation was eventually addressed.

But even today someone in the US could not survive on the ‘minimum wage’ and must work multiple jobs for survival or to support a family. That large companies exploit these situations and reap large profits from them goes without saying.

But just like you or me, companies look for the best price/value for goods – whether the items are made in Bangladesh, Vietnam or Market Harborough.

The Bones said...

Fourth sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance:

4. defrauding workers of their JUST wages (Jas 5:4).

Rod George said...

Two of the sins crying out to heaven for vengance are: Oppression of the poor and Defrauding labourers of their wages. Pope Francis is quite right in what he says.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Nothing will change until we bring the work back...."

When the work was in American companies like J.P. Stevens had workers in deplorable conditions, at times worse than the 'sweatshops'.

It is never a matter of simply bringing the work back 'Here'.

Had the Good Samaritan not had a favourable balance sheet he would have been able to help anyone..."

That is a horrible statement to make against Our Lord.

As a Catholic, I have always believed the Good Samaritan shared from his needs, not from his excess.

We need to think and act as Catholics.

The Good Samaritan gave what was needed, and did without; that is Charity.

Shame on us for thinking otherwise.

When we have someone in our employ or are purchasing from someone we must make certain our goods do not come to us 'cursed' by someone's evil greed, or just plain evil attitude.

If we have to go out of our way, or pay extra, that is the cost of doing business.

Our Padres need to take back control from the laity, and start setting the standards again.

In example, while traveling with Padres, the head Padre always double checks the amount of tips I give to people that serve us.

At times I have been told to increase the amount or add someone I overlooked.

It is not about the profit or frugal use of money; it is about being fair to those in employment.

We have a pizza mogul that refuses billions that he may pay his employees a good wage and benefits.

And his pizza cost $5.00 compared to average everywhere else $12.00.

I understand the gentleman sleeps good at night.

It is not hard to be Catholic.

Physiocrat said...

It is not just the sweatshops. A lot of the cotton is grown in huge farms in Uzbekistan where people, including children, work in slave-like conditions.

JARay said...

First let me say that your blog got a mention yesterday. I receive the daily email from New Advent which gives a list of sites and a precis of their contents. Yesterday there was a site which listed 100 blogs of Catholic priests and yours was listed and so was Fr. Tim Finigan. Strangely enough one which was not on that list was the blog of Mgr. Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington, although his posts are often listed individually. I happen to like what he has to say and find myself contributing from time to time. He had an interesting one just a couple of days ago on just what Jesus looked like when he was here on earth. But I digress!
The condition of the swetshops is indeed appalling and western countries are indeed complicit in purchasing goods produced in them. But...if no one bought these goods then just what state of misery would the poor unfortunates be in?
There is no easy answer to this!

JARay said...

Just adding to my previous posting.
The blog of Mgr. Charles Pope is:-
http://blog.adw.org
In case anyone is interested!

Fr Ray Blake said...

JARay,
It isn't a matter of not buying products, that leads to starvation but those companies who buy must use their muscle to ensure humane working conditions and wages.

Physiocrat said...

@Pablo
A fair wage is a matter of justice, not charity. It is what Pope John Paul II described as sinful structures that leads to the situation where people will accept an unfair wage.

In Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict emphasises the need for justice as the ultimate charity.

JARay said...

I fully understand what you are saying Father but just what guarantee do you think anyone would have that a company buying from these sweatshops would have, if they offered a greater price to the owners of the same sweatshop, for their products, that this increase in price would be passed on to the operatives producing the goods?
I think that this can be expressed as "who will gain?".

Physiocrat said...

JAR is right, the wages of labour are in all circumstances the least that people will accept. If there are no other opportunities for earning a livelihood, then people will accept penurious wages.

If the employer is paid more for the produce, the extra will most certainly be retained by the employer as profits. In due course, the higher profits will be retained by the landlord in the form of higher rents, so the benefits do not even go to the employer.

I think you will find that the whole of Bangladesh is owned by a handful of enormously wealthy families and until that is changed the majority of the population will live in abject poverty.

John Simlett said...

One is bound to ask, what income would the poor oppressed have received before the sweat shops arrived? What would they earn if the sweat shops were withdrawn?

The danger is that in saving them from slavery we condemn them to starvation.

GOR is right, concerning the Western World of a century ago... BUT... when the anti-slavers acted to remove child labour, the children were then left loose on the street and soon became jailed under the new 'Vagrancy' laws that Peel has just introduced. The prisons became full and the moral panic was based on an imagined wave of 'child crime.'

It is interesting to note that the Parliamentary Committee investigating the 'crime wave' didn't mention the fact that the children were starving, but merely that it was the result of them not going to Sunday School.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...One is bound to ask, what income would the poor oppressed have received before the sweat shops arrived?..."

If I may put my 'two cents' in, the poor at one time were taken care of by Holy Mother Church.

They lived on the grounds of the Monasteries.

King Henry VIII sold off the Church properties leaving the poor as a people suffering under secular control.

The people that purchased the former Monastery properties are now dust in the wind; their wives became barren and their bloodlines ended.

We must and will eventually return to an agrarian lifestyle as people will reject being subject to monetary systems.


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