Saturday, November 23, 2013

Regular and Irregular Workers

A bishop, writing on "faith and finances" in the Catholic Times, reminds us that inventions and and even significant historical changes often depend on the level of economic development achieved and on the availability of money to support these changes. At times, the bishop says, this state of affairs creates more pain than the pain that accompanies our last days on earth. In the 20th century alone there have been two world wars, and even today there is fighting and mass killings in many parts of the world which have been influenced, the bishop believes, by the world of finance.

The Church sees this financial world as a way of making our lives more fruitful and as a tool to participate in the work of creation. Finances are now so deeply involved in the operation of the world that there is no way for humanity to separate from the effects of this world. The only solution is to search for a right relationship with it, and a correct standard determining what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false.  Catholics can find this in our social teaching.

The bishop mentions that there are many areas where we have serious difficulties. He cites the example of the establishment of the irregular and regular worker distinction at the time of the 1997 International Monetary Fund bail out. To help with the Asian financial crisis, corporations were allowed to employ irregular workers who could be hired or fired at the will of the company. Even after 10  years we continue this policy.

The policy has caused many problems, says the bishop. Those who are working in fast food restaurants, convenience stores and big markets are often irregular workers. In fact, over half the workers in the country are irregular workers, who often are faced with deplorable working conditions and a lack of security.

Even if they do the same work as a regular worker and have the  same qualifications, their pay, on average, is 1,000 dollars less a month. The principle in the workplace is not one of sharing but of efficiency.  It is not finances for the person but the person for the finances.  We know this is not the way it should be, and with this kind of thinking the situation will continue to get worse.

Many of us are not familiar with the plight of the irregular workers and until this changes, the situation will not improve. The bishop ends his column with a wish that the Christians  become familiar with what is going on in the workplace. All wish to live a life of happiness of both body and spirit, and when we see this injustice and inhuman treatment of many of our workers, we as Christians should be on the forefront calling for changes to a financial system that will be more interested in sharing the wealth for the many than in amassing wealth for the few. 

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