Workers’ rights and the right to work

Workers’ rights and the right to work

1. Learning, discussing and disseminating the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (CRP) constitutes, nowadays, an almost civic and political obligation for democrats: at least for all those who, coherently, supported the broad political arc that approved it and, better or worse, he has revised it.

An important civic task is currently imposed on them: to point out, and if possible, guide the destinies that the country should follow, in accordance with constitutional principles and designs.

The CRP guarantees, in fact, a safe and sufficiently comprehensive place to resume a democratic and aggregating reflection of the different political currents that participated in its drafting and revisions and, respectively, approved them, totally or partially.

In short, a discussion widely participated in by the majority of the country’s citizens about what a clear political project can and should be; a space of commitment that brings to the Portuguese, simultaneously and urgently, more social justice and better and more balanced economic development.

A project that, therefore, is capable of contradicting, from now on, the ideological hegemony that the scintillating, but cunning and fragmentary, discourse of neoliberalism wants to impose as the only alternative to the current depreciated social situation.

A democratic project that, at the same time, makes inaudible, definitively superfluous and, therefore, intolerable, the siren songs of the radical, nationalist, racist and xenophobic right and those who, supporting it, still hide within the parties democratic conservatives, to better condition them and force them to align with that.

And, at this point, it is important to be clear about the scope for debate and democratic collaboration that can exist between the different partisan forces that populate our political universe: on the one hand, there are those who voted and believe in the current CRP and the objectives outlined in it. and, on the other, those who oppose them, more directly or more covertly.

There are, in fact, many constitutional themes and purposes that matter to each and every citizen of different generations, conditions and democratic sympathies, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Portuguese people.

two. For example, the constitutional approach to the right to work and workers’ rights fits perfectly into this reflection and therefore deserves to be carried out with everyone’s input.

The discussion of such rights goes beyond – it must go beyond – its strictly legal dimension and even the more ductile, but also more limited, economic reading in which many insist on concluding it.

Work and workers’ rights are themes that are broadly part of the concept, always open and always evolving, of full citizenship.

The CRP defined and enshrined workers’ rights as fundamental rights of Portuguese citizenship (articles 53 to 57).

It also included the right to work within the scope of economic, social and cultural rights and, in this regard, it also defined all social rights that provide for and complete the condition of workers as citizens with specific rights (articles 58 and 59).

In this way, one can and must give shape to a societal project aimed at affirming a citizenship that seeks, with truth and realism, to make a truly humanist political commitment; a program that counts on the contribution of everyone and everyone to the pursuit of the “common good”.

This, so that the concept of “common good” is always updated in accordance with the socioeconomic, scientific and cultural development achieved by men at each moment and stage of collective life.

The paths to be taken to achieve the “common good” may include different routes, speeds and proposals, but their visible core and object must necessarily be the same, and, at each moment, something very identical.

And by saying this, we are already separating all solutions that are based on radical individualism and capitulationist relativism and that, admittedly, dispense with constitutional principles and values.

Principles and values ​​precisely aimed at ensuring that men’s activities have a more solidary purpose, which does not simply consist of the selfish promotion of their own interests.

Principles and values ​​aiming to effectively do justice to all those who build and participate in the realization of such interests – simultaneously their own and those of others – and, furthermore, to all those who, outside of this direct employment relationship, can, or even should, benefit from them as well.

And it is not necessary to be a true social democrat, a left-wing socialist or even a communist, to think this way.

I recall here, by the way, the words, not very old, of a Pope who had a reputation for being conservative in matters of customs, but who, with regard to the situation of working men, said, among other things, such important things as these:

«The reduction in the level of protection of workers’ rights or the renunciation of income redistribution mechanisms, to make the country gain greater international competitiveness, prevents the affirmation of long-term development. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the consequences that current trends for an economy in the short, if not very short term, may have on people. This requires a new and profound reflection on the meaning of the economy and its purposes, as well as a profound and far-sighted review of the development model, to correct its dysfunctions and deviations. In reality, the state of ecological health of the earth requires it; Above all, the cultural and moral crisis of man demands it, the symptoms of which are evident everywhere.”

And still:

«Among those who do not respect the human rights of workers, there are sometimes large transnational companies and also local production groups.»

(Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate – 6/29/2009)

3. Contrary to the primacies of the old liberal constitutionalism, in view of the historical commitment found in the CRP, the rights related to private property and initiative are limited and oriented towards the same end.

That is: they legitimize themselves to the extent that, in some way, they also contribute to the general interest.

But, let’s face it, if, theoretically, it is not on such rights, or in function of them, that the CRP bases the architecture of fundamental rights that characterize our democracy, then it is important, without forgetting or belittling them, to place them in the right place .

In effect, and somewhat laconic, article 61, paragraph 1, says: “Private economic initiative is exercised freely within the frameworks defined by the Constitution and the law and taking into account the general interest”.

This is the background of a Constitution that understands and privileges human activity – work – as inspiring and guiding policy and as the mentor of an economy designed to be at the service of man, and not, as liberals pretend, the man at the service of the economy.

Discussing and publicizing the most important political-social themes, and the way in which the CRP approaches them, will therefore certainly contribute to helping to root a democratic political culture – which we want to be as comprehensive as possible – of effective respect, and not just propaganda, for human rights and the rule of law.

Through knowledge and the inevitable discussion that the extent and detail of such rights requires, it is therefore possible to project, once again, hope for the future of the country that fragmentary and short-range political responses have kept away from new generations.

4. We live – and this is how many see it – in the utopian world of free “entrepreneurs” and bold “entrepreneurship”.

This, even if, in general, the projects that give shape to such a utopia fail at a rate at least as great as the construction of the houses of cards on which they are based.

And, as we have already said, the same Pope Benedict XVI wrote, generating only «an economy in the short if not very short term».

Such individualist and anarchic – liberal daydreams risk, however, eroding not only the unreasonable public investments and support involved in them, but also the already reduced bonds of common responsibility – even if different – that still weave, in our society, the relationship between those who work and those for whom they work.

5. Furthermore, the atomization of those who, dazzled, intend to act in such circumstances as autonomous producers ends up contributing, not to their emancipation as men and citizens, but to their more complete submission, as true employees, who, in one way or another, they actually are.

And they really are, except that, in this circumstance, isolated and without direct or indirect labor rights, without social security, nor the solidarity of their companions, capable of, with them, fighting for better living conditions and a “good life »

A decent life for everyone.

The balanced combination that the CRP makes of these rights, with others that, although different, complement them and that, only articulated and functioning together, make a coherent sense in the realization of the democracy it advocates, therefore needs to be studied and understood by the youngest.

Only the mobilization of younger people, around the CRP and the fundamental rights enshrined in it, can, in today’s troubled days, and in those that will inevitably follow, help to reverse the despair that generates the liberal illusion that, like Hamelin’s flute, It now leads a society without a fundamental political direction and, therefore, in a permanent economic crisis.

Discussing with everyone, everywhere – and not only, or essentially, in schools and universities – the CRP, its philosophy, its principles, its values ​​and fundamental and social rights could, therefore, contribute to reviving the debate in around Democracy, social justice, solidarity and collective commitment to achieving the “common good”.

Today, more than ever, such discussion and learning are fundamental.

It’s just urgent to organize it.


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