Inequality in our society is increasing, making unions more important than ever, Bishop Terry Brady said during the annual Labour Day Mass at St Patrick’s Church Hill on 6 September.
“More than ever if you look around our society you see so many injustices. Life for many is very hard with families paying off mortgages and both mum and dad working,” Bishop Brady said during his homily.
“More than ever we need to keep an eye out for each other, to make sure everyone is given a fair go.”
Bishop Brady said wages for the average worker are “way, way down.”
“That’s why we need our unions more than ever and we need good people in our unions… who have that sense that everyone must get a fair go.”
In his address, Secretary of Unions NSW, Mr Mark Morey, quoted alarming statistics showing that 3.6 million Australians don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Forty-eight per cent of that group of people have a job, he said, demonstrating the inadequacy of earned wages for many Australians.
“There is a growing inequality in our country and I think the union movement and the Catholic Church are at the forefront of tackling injustice,” Mr Morey told The Catholic Weekly following the Mass.
“We need to get back to those sorts of values and think about how we actually make society work for people.”
“One of the things we do know is that in every country where there are unions, if the number of unionists is decreasing, we know inequality is growing. So it’s very much about having a balance in the work place and insuring that the wealth that is created through employment and through jobs, is equally distributed through society and that people are able to actually work in jobs and feed their families.”
Mr Morey said Labour Day began in 1855 when workers who were forced to work ten hours a day Monday to Friday and eight hours on Saturdays, refused to continue being exploited. This was the birth of the eight-hour work day, Mr Morey said.
Bishop Brady said the Catholic Church has a long tradition of upholding the dignity of workers and the “dignity of work” itself. Many of the union organisers in the past would have come from the Catholic community, he said, as the faithful were motivated by the writings of Pope Leo XIII on the dignity of work.
“So many reforms came from the Catholic community, we’ve always been pushers for those sorts of things… Jesus doesn’t have a pecking order, there’s no first or second class, we’re all his brothers and sisters.”