By DOUGLAS HYDE
AT a moment when thousands of workers are faced with redundancy caused by the coming of automation, by changes in the export market and the Government's "squeeze " policy, some principles laid down by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno " 25 years ago have a special relevance.
The guiding principles set forth in paragraphs 72-74 concerning the regulation of just wages apply also to the general conditions of work. Redun
dancy is held by social thinkers to be such a " condition."
The Encyclical makes it obvious that the demand for full wages when there is no work in a particular concern cannot be justified. Paragraph 72 says:
" . • it would he unjust to demand excessive wages which a business cannot pay without ruin. and without consequent distress amongst the working people themselves...."
But it also indicates that the employers may not simply abandon the workers to their fate. " In the last extreme," it says. " counsel must he taken whether the business continue, or whether some other provision should be made for the workers."
This counsel should include the workers—a demand which shop stewards and unions are currently making. " Let employers .. and employed join in plans and efforts to overcome all difficulties and obstacles." the Encyclical says.
If trade has fallen as a result of
inefficient man a gem en t. an employer has a clear obligation to his employees. "If the business make smaller profit on account of want of energy and enterprise, or from neglect of technical and economic progress, this is not a just reason for reducing the workers' wages."
Joint discussions to decide what rate should be paid must have in mind the effect upon the nation's economy as a whole. " To lower or raise wages unduly, with a view to private advantage, and with no consideration for the common good. is . , . contrary to social justice."
. It is obvious that maintaining large numbers of redundant workers might in time he ruinous for any firm. Again, the Encyclical has something to say on this: " A rate of wages too low or too high causes unemployment, and unemployment ruins the prosperity of nations... ."
Paragraph 74 makes it clear that the Government as well as the employer has a responsibility towards those displaced. The civil authority has a large responsibility. from its duty to care for the common good in ensuring stable and widespread employment.
That responsibility is not discharged merely by warning manufacturers of troubles to come. Paragraph 80 states that it must " direct, watch, stimulate, restrain... ."
Guide and key
These principles laid down in "Quatiragesimo Anno " could and should become a guide to behaviour and a key to policy for every Catholic shop steward. trade unionist and industrial worker in enterprises and unions now aff-cted by redundancy.
There could he no more striking tribute to the undying topicality of the Encyclical,