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‘The relational dimension is a great Christian contribution to the workplace’

A trade unionist, a business owner, and a theology of work expert analyse how to deal with the challenges of labour relations from a biblical perspective.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus BARCELONA 22 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 2022 15:05 h
Photo: [link]Remy Gieling[/link]. Unsplash (CC0).

This is the second part of two of an in-depth article on Christians and trade unionism. You can read part one here.


Restoring relationships

Christian trade unionists and business leaders agree on the need of restoring relationships in an increasingly challenging context.

“The workplace is changing. It is becoming increasingly dehumanised, as we are introducing artificial intelligence and algorithms not only to speed up production processes, but also to hire and fire people. This leads people to be more and more selfish and the relationship between boss and employee is deteriorating”, says Israel Soriano, a union delegate in a factory in Tarragona.

In addition to finding common ground, Spanish group of Evangelicals in Economy and Business, Tres-e  also points to the need of “removing old stereotypes”.

The mantra that employers take advantage of the benefits has to disappear, because over 80% of companies in this country have less than 50 workers and struggle to maintain themselves”, points out Ángel González, a representative of Tres-e .

“On the other hand, we should also stop thinking that workers do not seek the good of the company and its profitability, and that this is only the goal of the employers”, he adds.


A biblical worldview

Gonzalez stresses that it is vital to consider the biblical worldview of “everyone is under divine supervision”.

The entrepreneur recalls that in the Bible “employers are told to 'provide what is right and fair to your servants, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven' (Colossians 4:1). Workers are told: 'obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart' (Ephesians 6:6)”.

[photo_footer]  The Christian model of life and discipleship has much to say and contribute in the context of labour relations today / Sol, Unsplash.  [/photo_footer] 

“This relationship framework is possible, but we must have a higher vision and think that the interests of each other must be respected and taken into account, as the only way to turn confrontation into collaboration and understanding”, he adds.

Tres-e suggests “the figure of an impartial mediator”, and points to the government, although it also laments that "it does not always fulfil its role”.

Soriano warns that “the lack of empathy is a big loss in labour relations. “The boss does not think that his employee has arrived late because perhaps he has had a bad night because of his sick child, or simply says that this is not his problem, when it really is. Nor does the employee think about the boss's pressures to keep his company afloat amidst all the tax rises and new, cheaper competitors".

The trade unionist points out that “today we do more coaching courses than ever to teach empathy, assertiveness and conflict resolution, but there is a book written thousands of years ago that has been mentoring us ever since. At the end it all comes down to Christ's command in John 13:34-35 to love one another. This is true empathy and the solution to not just the labour problem, but the universal one”.


Discipleship, a Christian contribution

Like all complex human issues, there are no simple solutions. Thinking about a Christian response, all agree on the importance of a whole-life discipleship.

“There is not a place in the universe of which Jesus does not claim: 'This is mine'. If Jesus is Lord of all, not just of the Church, it means that Christians must project that Lordship into every area of life. The disciple of Jesus needs to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This justice extends to all areas of life, it wants to restore any relationship damaged by sin, including the relationship between employer and employee”, says the national coordinator of the Graduate Bible Groups (GBG), Jaume Llenas.

According to the Lenas, “it is not true that the only way to achieve results in labour relations is confrontation. As in other areas of life, there are other ways of achieving relational results. I am not rejecting strikes, it seems to me that strikes can be, in certain cases, a lawful way of establishing relations in the labour sphere so that active and peaceful resistance is imposed”.

But the key is to be relational. Agreements that last over time start from situations where no one feels offended. Solutions where there is no justice are short-lived and a source of further conflict. I believe that the relational dimension is one of the great contributions that we Christians can make”, underlines Llenas.

“Christian entrepreneurs have to understand that profits have to be achieved with the workers, not at their expense. When profit is made through exploitation, that company becomes part of the economy of Ancient Egypt, an oppressive structure”.


The example of Jesus

González points to love and generosity as a guideline for “relations with others and the approaches and proposals that are presented”. And he adds that "the mood and tone” of communication are especially important for achieving these long-term agreements.

For Soriano, the example to follow is that of Jesus himself, who “created the most important agreement in history by dying for our sins, an act that was not at all selfish but eternal”.

“Likewise we, in our workplaces, must put aside our ego to improve the conditions of working people”, he says.

That is why Soriano considers that “the place of Christians in the trade union world is key, because, through trade unions, we have access to many people from different social groups to whom we can teach that conflicts can also be solved without being selfish, reaching important agreements for the workers of this country without 'burning bridges'”.





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