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Church to mobilize labor

More than four million unaffiliated workers in one state alone, says pastoral letter reporter, Kochi

May 2, 2011

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The Catholic Church in Kerala says it will organize those working in the casual sector and demand dignity of labor for them. A pastoral letter read in all churches of the southern Indian state on May Day criticized politically affiliated trade unions for not protecting the interests of casual laborers. The letter signed by Bishop Jose Porunnedom of Mananthavady, chair of the Labor Commission of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council, noted that Kerala has more than four million casual workers. According to the pastoral letter, the Church would initiate steps to get these people into the Kerala Labour Movement, a Church body. Bishop Porunnedom said the Church is concerned that women constitute a large proportion of the casual labour chunk of unorganized labor. “The Church will set up different forums for construction workers, housemaids and tailors this year. We will help them avail various social security schemes provided by both the federal and state governments,” the prelate said. The bishop also noted some 500,000 workers from other states are engaged in construction work in Kerala. “Their working conditions are poor. The trade unions are not interested in their affairs as they are not organized,” he added. Kerala, where Marxist-led coalition now rules, has 11,664 trade unions, the largest in the country. Father Stephen Alathara, spokesman, said the Church is making a positive intervention in the casual sector to provide better living conditions for the poorest workers. “We would like to enable them for a collective bargain,” he added. IB14067
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