KOLPING INTERNATIONAL statement on May 1: Labour Day


Achieving decent work

“Most workers – despite being employed – often do not earn more than their daily bread. Wages have been going from bad to worse for years; (…) All too often a family labours [!] the entire week after a long and bleak wait and still can’t manage to save up two or three thalers, which are not much to speak of in the local circumstances!

And not to mention that the manner workers are treated in (…) is often outrageous. Workers endure, suffer, and hold their tongues since they do not want to tighten the noose these cruel circumstances have wrapped around their neck or to even suffocate them. (…) I repeat: Our current industry is cunning, cold-hearted egotism, the likes of which the world has never seen so far.”

Adolph Kolping[1]

These words were written by Blessed Adolph Kolping 170 years ago, almost 50 years before the first social encyclical Rerum Novarum was published. And yet, there are still millions of people who are forced to work for a pittance under exploitative conditions. Modern slavery in textile production and on banana plantations, the destruction of the environment and natural resources by extractive industries are still common practice in world-wide economic activities. According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 40 million people are in “modern slavery“.

KOLPING INTERNATIONAL calls for the observance of standards of decent work as they were laid down in the ILO Core Labour Standards as binding international law. These rights must not only be ratified but also be implemented in all nations of this world. This requires an extensive system of labour inspections.

There shall no longer be an unrestricted trade of goods from countries that verifiably do not adhere to core labour standards, where people are forced to do work they have not agreed to, where they are not granted the freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining, where exploitative child labour and discrimination at work are not punished.

In 2015 almost all nations of the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 8 promotes decent work for all people in the world once again. Decent work shall now be legally enforceable. Labour laws without labour inspections, certification marks without controls are useless and did not bring about any major improvements in the past decades.

Following the tradition of Blessed Adolph Kolping, Kolping associations in over sixty countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe are fighting for the rights of working people, for decent work across the globe.


International Executive Committee

[1] Brief von der Wupper, Source material: Rheinisches Kirchenblatt No. 14 pp.284-288 (1848), AK Schriften Band 3, p. 44, 2. 2007 edition.