Pope Francis: Laying Off Workers Without Due Cause Is ‘Very Grave Sin’

Pope Francis speaks to the faithful during his general audience in Aula Paolo VI on January 18, 2017 at the Vatican. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis waded into recent Italian labor disputes Wednesday, declaring that it is a “very grave sin” to eliminate jobs by shutting down factories or closing companies for purely economic reasons.

The Pope was referring specifically to a press release Tuesday announcing that the “Sky Italia” TV platform would be downsizing and moving some 300 employees and their families from Rome to Milan, after selling all their digital properties to Quantum Native Solutions.

At the end of his General Audience Wednesday morning, Francis offered a special greeting “to the employees of Sky Italy,” referencing their right to work and offering a thinly veiled rebuke to company leaders.

“Work gives us dignity,” the Pope continued, “and leaders of the people and those in government are obliged to do everything possible so that every man and every woman can work and so hold their heads high and look others in the eye with dignity.”

Then came what appeared to be a sharp reproach to Sky Italia, in seemingly direct reference to recent decisions of management.

“Those who engage in economic maneuvering to make murky deals, closing factories and businesses and laying off workers in the process, commit a very grave sin,” he said.

In his 2013 book-length letter Evangelii Gaudium (“the Joy of the Gospel”), Francis had already expressed his opposition to company downsizing for purely economic reasons.

The economy, he wrote, “can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”

Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company, with some 22 million customers across five countries, including Italy.

In his message, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the work situation of Sky employees can “find a quick solution, while respecting the rights of everyone, especially families.”

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