On 28-29th November 2017 Marc Besford, a member of the National Team in England & Wales was invited by the ICYCW to attend on their behalf the Autumn meeting of the COMECE European Bishops Social Affairs Commission which was held in Brussels.
The two day gathering started with an address from His Excellency Gianni Ambrosio (Bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio, Vice President of COMECE and President of the COMECE Social Affairs Commission) who outlined the reason for meeting.
He said “We find at the very heart of Laudato Si six paragraphs on the need to protect employment. In this Pope Francis reminds us that according the biblical account of creation, our vocation to work is strongly interlinked to our vocation to keep and till the garden that God has entrusted to us”.
After the opening remarks Fr Pierre Martinot-Lagarde SJ (Special Advisor at the International Labour Organisation) and John Hurley (Research Manager at Eurofound) spoke about employment shifts in Europe and gave the results from the European Jobs Monitor 2017.
In the afternoon the focus was on the youth perspective. There was a presentation by Leonie Martin (Vice President of the Young European Federalists, JEF) on the experience of young people in a changing labour market
After the presentation Marc spoke about some of the problems young people in the UK felt, he touched upon the issues of Brexit, Zero-Hour Contracts and young people unable to find a permanent posts, even after university. He also raised the increasing need to discuss the current state of young people’s mental health.
After that it was time to discuss the perspective of the European Commission and to ensure the dignity of work in a changing economy. After which Mass was celebrated in the chapel Marc was also asked to read the first reading.
The next day we had a presentation by Nicola Danti MEP about how to ensure dignity at work in a changing economy. As well as Rodrigo Whitelaw on entrepreneurship and Thomas Miessen on the role of Trade Unions in a changing labour market.
Then it got down to the discussion on the document that is to be drafted and sent to the Member of the European Parliament. This document has an emphasis to put the future of work in terms of Catholic Social Teaching. Recommendations to the document were noted and this is to be published early in the new year.
Marc said of the experience “It was amazing to be asked by the International Team to go and represent them at this event. I have gained a lot from the event and to be also able to speak at the event and to raise awareness of some problems face in the UK was an amazing experience”.