May Day Message 2021.
Ensure Right to Live with Dignity.
“Right to Live with dignity cannot be denied to any One”
(Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti)
Let Us Rededicate Ourselves with Our Patron St. Joseph Pope Francis has dedicated this year to St. Joseph, the Patron of workers. Let us thank the Lord for this great opportunity and rededicate ourselves in the spirit of our patron to dream and to work unceasingly for a new world order of ‘Social friendship and universal fraternity’. At this moment of great anxiety and distress let us place the whole humanity especially the workers –informal, unorganised and migrants, to the intercession of St. Joseph to journey with a Father’s Heart (Patris Corde).
Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate -Internally Displaced Persons
The right to live with dignity cannot be denied to anyone, Pope Francis affirms, and since rights have no boundaries, no one can remain excluded regardless of where they are born (Fratelli Tutti no.107). Hence as Pope Francis invites everyone through his World Day Message to the Migrants and Refugees in 2020. Let us, “Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate internally displaced persons”.
The Pandemic Covid 19 has exposed plethora of issues, the humanity especially the migrants underwent. Addressing the Kerala dialogue on 26 June 2020, the Nobel Laurate Amartya Sen said, “Corona Virus kills indiscriminately” but preventing daily wagers from earning a living would result in people starving to death. A large segment of migrant population in our country experienced untold discrimination during the time of the lockdown. They were stigmatised and were labelled as carriers of corona. The migrants, intra-state, interstate, overseas- the seafarers, fishers, domestic workers, construction workers, nomads, footloose workers etc were put to immense miseries like no proper food, shelter, medicines and other essentials of life. They were put to unimaginable trauma and uncertainty.
According to the World Bank economist, Spriyo De, “The number of internal migrants in India was 450 million in 2011. As per the study of the UN rapporteur Philip Alston who published it in July 2020, there are over 250 million migrant workers in India who are at the risk of acute poverty. Though the country and states promised to provide everything to the distressed migrants, they remain as promises in the wilderness.
Millions of impoverished men, women and children in India migrate from the rural areas to the urban areas each year- in crowded trains, buses, trucks and sometimes on foot with their belongings bundled over their heads, in search of employment and means to survive. Many tend to drift quickly to low paid, vulnerable occupations- picking waste, pulling rickshaws, working in mines and brick kilns, constructing buildings and roads, or working in the private premises of the household. They are treated as intruders and illegitimate citizens and live-in makeshift shanties or on streets and in night shelters. Their wage rates are much below subsistence level and long work hours and unhealthy and unsafe conditions of employment. They are often unable to access even elementary citizenship rights like identity card, right to vote, ration card, health services and admission of children to schools. Their contribution to the GDP of the country is very large. Yet migrants tend to remain in the periphery of public policy. Laws in the country are inadequate to protect them. Even the recently passed labour codes do not adequately address the issues of millions of migrant workers who are the backbone of Indian economy. Lack of access to social security, welfare programmes and health benefits make them more distressed.
This is at this juncture, along with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Workers Day Message, the Civil Society’s commitment to ensure, “Safe and Healthy Working Conditions which are fundamental to decent work” stands relevant. The intervention of the civil society, doctors, nurses, health workers, paramedical staff, the security personnel, navigators, government officials and ministers need to be kept on record and ‘a big Salute to all the Corona warriors’. But now as millions of migrants started moving back to their work places inspite of the second wave of corona virus, to meet dare needs of life, the responsibility of the civil society emerges vital. It is once again the call of the hour to stand united with the migrant workers to demand for adequate surety of worker identity, portability of entitlements, occupational safety, health and social security. This is also opportune moment to negotiate to ensure responsible mobility as designed and accepted by the UN member States through the Global Compact on Migration (GCM). Over and above, it is time to realise the 2030 UN agenda, ‘Leave no one behind’ and to facilitate Safe, Orderly, Regular and Responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well managed migration policies. (SDG. 10. 7)
While searching for a dignified life to the migrants, Pope Francis reminds us that migration is not the only means to promote livelihood and dignity. He says, “Unnecessary migration ought to be avoided; this entails creating in countries of origin the conditions needed for a dignified life and integral development” (F.T. No. 129). As Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation has dreamt and advocated that, “the Soul of India lives in its villages” and hence, we need to revive and rebuild the rural economies. We need to equip and empower the farmers and rural manufacturers to generate rural employment. As part of the Post Covid - 19 reflection, it is strongly recommended by various experts that we need to reenergise rural economy that is sustainable and eco-friendly. In the knowledge era Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy, proposes the need of knowledge bridges to be built between cities and villages and the creation of an ecosystem which has been conceptualised as a “cillage” – a synergistic combination of city and village. Further he states that “bridging the knowledge gap between a city and a village would also bridge the income gap between the two” (Published in Indian Express, April 14, 2020.)
As Pope Francis once again puts it, the Pandemic Covid 19 invites us for a deeper introspection. Pope says, ‘The world is itself crying out in rebellion’ and further reminds us quoting poet Virgil, “tears of things”, the misfortunes of life and history. (F. T.34). And therefore, Pope invites us “to take a step forward towards a new style of life”. (F.T. 35) This is where the Farm laws passed by the Indian Parliament on 27th September 2020, which has created strong dissent among the farmers as they see them as anti-farmer, enslaving them to corporate require a relook. So too, the new Labour Codes instead of ensuring universal social security and protection to all workers, reduces the workers into mere wage slaves. Similarly, the draft ‘National Fisheries Policy 2019’ and the subsequent ‘Draft Blue Economy Policy for India’ raises concern over the life and livelihood of over10 million fishers and over170 million people who will be impacted by the marine and coastal environment. The proposed Policies raise grave question, in the circumstance when the global warming and climate change predictions highlight heavy erosion to the extent that cities like Mumbai and Cochin which are located sea fronts, would be submerged by 2050. Though the draft Blue Economy policy is framed in the pretext of SDG 14, it raises questions on the livelihood, marine and coastal environment, marine ecology and the very existence of our mother earth.
Another World is Possible
In the context of the Pandemic and the unceasingly continuing impact of the Corana Virus, unimaginably recurring climate disasters, a search for a new paradigm of development is essential. The discourse that another world is possible is vibrant among the labour associations, social engineers and climate activists. This is where a team of scientists appealed to the national governments to reverse the development parameters in the context of the impending disastrous natural calamities.
In his latest encyclical Pope Francis also invites for a better kind of politics which represents one of the most valuable forms of charity because it is placed at the service of common good and recognises the importance of people. A better politics is also one that protects work because Pope reiterates that ‘Since production systems may change, political systems must keep working to structure society in such a way that everyone has a chance to contribute his or her own talents and efforts. For “there is no poverty worse than that which takes away work and the dignity of work” (F. T 162)
Pope in the encyclical also states that, “It is imperative to have a proactive economic policy directed at “promoting an economy that favours productive diversity and business creativity and makes it possible for jobs to be created and not cut. (F.T. 168) Therefore Pope emphasises that, “in addition to recovering a sound political life that is not subject to dictates of finance, “we must put human dignity back at the centre and on that pillar build the alternative social structure we need.”(F. T. 168)
Pope Francis further states that, “We need economics that gives to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and Labour. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that impacts their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth”. (Let Us Dream- The Path to a Better Future)
The year of St. Joseph, the Patron of workers is an occasion to rededicate ourselves to organise and empower informal, unorganised and migrant workers. The Governing Council, Workers India Federation, in a recent meeting proposed to apprise the regional Chairmen and directors of labour commissions to organise regional programmes to Commemorate the year of St. Joseph, our Patron. Meanwhile Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have initiated a joint process with different religious groups, Civil Society organisations and workers leaders to work out common matrix to engage together to address migrant workers issues. In Delhi too we had Joint meetings with Caritas India, MAIN (Jesuits), VIVAT India (SVD’s), Don Bosco 4 Migrants (Salesians), Migrant Commission CCBI, CBCI Offices of Education and Culture, Women, Tribal Affairs and SC-BC initiated by the Labour Office, to develop a synergy. Such initiatives may be worked out in every region in collaboration with the above and other likeminded civil society organisations to mark the year of St. Joseph, Our Patron and to develop a synergy.
Let us all stand united with St. Joseph, the Patron of workers to dream for and create a post Covid,New World order.
Most. Rev. Dr. Alex Vadakkumthala,Chairman, CBCI Office for Labour
Most. Rev. Dr. Jose Chittooparambil CMI, Vice Chairman, CBCI Office for Labour
Most Rev. Dr. Nazarene Soosai, Vice Chairman, CBCI Office for Labour
Fr. Eugene H Pereira, Secretary,CBCI Office for Labour & Director - WIF
Mr. Joy Gothuruth,President-WIF
Mr. R. Alvin Devdas, Vice President – WIF
Mr. K. Jesuraja, General Secretary-WIF
Mr. S. Antony, Joint Secretary – WIF
Mr. Elroy Kiran Crasto,Treasurer-WIF
Annual General Body Meeting (AGBM) of Workers India Federation 29th April 2021 at 6.00 pm
MAY DAY MESSAGE 2020.
A Just Society with Dignity and Equity.
“We are united by the struggle for peace and justice”, Pope Francis, Querida Amazonia, no. 109
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
The Labour Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India assures its prayers and all possible support to those who are distressed by the Pandemic Corona Virus. Many of our migrant workers stranded in various parts of the country and across the world are experiencing lots of agony and pain. The Governments, Civil Society, Labour Associations, Migrants Organizations, Church’s and religious groups are actively engaged in serving the humanity affected by the COVID 19. We place on record the commendable services rendered by all especially the National and State Governments, Scientists, doctors, nurses, Para-medical staff, security forces, and other service providers.
Towards a Just Society:
A just Society with dignity and equity has been the dream of humanity from time immemorial. The Holy Scripture says, “Follow Justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut 16, 20). The mission statement of Jesus reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”( Lk 4,18). The Church too reiterates this vision through its document, “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appears to us a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel” (Justice in the World, Synod of Bishops, 1971).
Efforts to Ensure Labour Standards:
Efforts to build a just Society, as Pope Francis states in the Querida Amazonia, require a capacity for fraternity, a spirit of human fellowship. It is with this spirit of fellowship and solidarity that the workers all over the world through the International Labour Organization (ILO) has established eight core conventions to ensure the rights of workers. The Social Teachings of the Catholic Church are the timely interventions to uphold the rights and dignity of workers. The encyclical Rerum Novarum, published by Pope Leo XIII, on 15 May 1891 upholds dignity of work, just wage, formation of trade union and collective bargaining to protect the rights of the workers.
The Working Class in India:
India has 48.76 crores workers. The workers in India are broadly categorized as organized sector or formal sector and unorganized sector or informal sector. The organized or formal sector includes workers employed by the government, state owned enterprises and private sector enterprises which are licensed. Ninety Four percent of the workers in the country are in the unorganized sector who are deprived of job security, minimum wage, social security and social welfare.
In the context of rampant Globalization and the Neo-liberal economic policies adopted by the Government of India from1991, the agricultural works and other sections in the informal sector are losing jobs. The bonded labourers and the child workers though banned by law in the country are increasing day by day due to poverty. The trafficking in women and children are the byproduct of the market economy. The NSSO report in 2019 admits that unemployment rate in the country is at the highest in over 45 years.
Impact of Trade Agreements:
The recent discussions for a free trade agreement among ten member states of Asean for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is currently stopped because of the resistance from the farmers and the trade unions in the country. The slogan during the protest was, ‘We can ill afford to become a dumping ground’! The far reaching consequences of the agreement to the farmers, shop keepers and small business men of the country is taken in to account by the Government of India while stopping to sign the agreement. To determine the future of the global rules on trade, the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is proposed to happen in June 2020 in Nur- Sultan, Kazakhstan. The proposed agreements will have adverse impact on the farmers, workers and Fishers who are already experiencing the pinch of the market economy.
Impact of Legal and Economic Reforms:
A country which could not afford, even after 70 years of independence to ensure minimum wage, social security, occupational safety, health insurance, maternity benefit, pension, job security, etc. is on the process of reforming the labour laws of the country. The remodeling of 44 labour laws of the country in to four labour codes will only support the corporate interests than the interests of workers. The rights to organize, negotiate etc. will be derailed. The workers’ right for rest, entertainment, social security and social welfare will be at stake.
The move of the national government to sell the public sector undertakings such as Bharatiya Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), BSNL, IDBI, Indian Railway, Air India, Mines, the defense industry etc. will only make the country an instrument of exploitation by the Multi- National Corporations (MNC’s). The job loss in the primary sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fishery etc. will make the workers in the rural areas to migrate to the mega cities. The alarming situation is projected by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, “the most vulnerable of these become temporary labourers, and many rural workers end up moving to poverty-stricken urban areas.” (Laudato SI, n. 134).
The world haunted by the Pandemic Corona Virus and the global locked down is an occasion for an introspection on the plight of humanity and to look forward to a new development paradigm. A development with a human face where the dignity of labour and value of human life is upheld as Pope Francis puts it,“ Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social and more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community”. (Laudato Si, n. 112). Further the Pope reiterates, “All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur” (Laudato Si, n. 114).
The UN proposal, for Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has become relevant. ‘Decent work for all’, figures prominently in the Sustainable Development Goals (no.8). According to ILO, the four pillars of decent work are productive employment, labour standards, social dialogue and social protection. Productive employment refers to employment that yields sufficient returns to permit the worker and his/her dependents a level of consumption above the poverty line. Decent wage is about paying workers enough so that they can cover the basic costs required for a dignified and healthy life for them and their family.
The Role of Workers India Federation and the CBCI Labour Office:
The Workers India Federation (WIF), the instrument of the Labour Office of the Catholic Bishops’ conference of India (CBCI), has the responsibility with the regional Labour Commissions and various fora’ to synergize the rural economy with gender equality. Human Resource Management Policy adopted by the CBCI in 2016 may be ensured in the Catholic institutions. To empower the workers, Regional Commissions may be strengthened giving participation to major work force in the respective regions. All the dioceses may also form Labour Commissions to protect the rights of the workers. The workers enumerated below needs our special attention;
1. Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry: They form 56.6 percent of the work force in the country contributing 14.10 percent of the GDP. The economic survey 2017-18 states that the farm income would reduce 20-25 percent due to the adversities in climate and therefore the urban migration would increase. But the specialized financing from the government with collective farming, value addition, co-operativisation and e-marketing can revitalize agriculture and fishery sectors.
2. Migrant Workers: Due to the failure of the rural economy large numbers of workers are migrating.
a. Overseas Migrants: India has 17.5 million overseas migrants. Due to lack of appropriate policy and legislation in India, the migrant workers end up in untold miseries. The Global compact on the safe, orderly and regular migration adopted by UN in 2018 is an instrument for educating the society for safe migration. It is also an instrument for negotiation to the national Government to frame a policy and law to protect the rights of the migrant workers. E-migrate, the web portal introduced by the Government has to be made use by the diocesan commissions to maintain proper data. In the context of the Pandemic, reintegration of migrants is a major concern.
b. Inter- State Migrants: There are 45 crore interstate migrants in the country. Proper legislation to protect their rights, safety, welfare and social security is essential. Pre-departure orientation with proper documentation of the outgoing migrants have to be maintained by the labour departments through an e-portal. The receiving states too must have proper data to protect them at different eventualities including disasters.
3. Domestic Workers: As per the ILO estimates there are 4.2 million domestic workers in India. In spite of various international conventions including the ILO convention on ‘Decent work for the domestic workers’ (C.189), there is no legislation to protect the rights of the domestic workers in the country. Various states in the country have moved forward to recognize them as workers and ensure minimum wage, social welfare etc. Attempts on the side of labour commission to protect the rights of the domestic workers as majority of them form female category and the trafficking in women is on the increase has to be effectively done.
4. Construction Workers: The 2.39 percent of the construction workers in India are contributing 13.79 percent share to the GDP. The living condition of the workers and the family members needs to be improved with appropriate social welfare schemes.
5. Other Informal Workers: The daily wage workers in the country comprise 51.15 percent. The living condition of these workers is day by day deteriorating with no proper social protection and social security measures.
6. Apostleship of the Sea (AOS): The Centennial celebration of Apostleship of the sea was to happen this year. Due to the Pandemic Corona Virus the celebration is postponed to next year. But let us remember in prayer thousands of seafarers, passengers and the crews stranded in the ships and ports.
7. Employment of the Youth: Presently India has the largest share of youth population in the world. The unemployment rate of the youth is also growing alarmingly high. We must collaborate with the skill Mission of the State and Central Governments to promote the youth to be efficient work force with suitable skills and competence.
Conclusion: The crass Globalization has stalled the rural economies with heavy loss of income and employment. A slogan emerging from the Civil Society, Human Rights Organizations, Migrants Associations, the Labour organizations and the Trade Unions is that “Our world is not for Sale. Stop Corporate Globalization. Another World is possible.” Let the world rally around the above slogan to create a new world order with dignity and equity.
St. Joseph, the patron of the workers, be our guide and inspiration to enliven the workers’ rights and dignity.
Rt. Rev. Dr. Alex Vadakkumthala
Rt. Rev. Dr. Jose Chittooparambil CMI
Rt. Rev. Dr. Nazarene Soosai
Fr. Eugene H Pereira
Secretary CBCI Office for Labour & Director, Workers India Federation,
CBCI Centre,1 Ashok Place, New Delhi-110001.
Mr. Joy Gothuruth
Mr. K. Jesuraja
Mr. Elroy Kiran Crasto
www.cbcilabour.info Mob: 91-9447461851, Tel: 011-23344740
Annual General Body Meeting (AGBM) of Workers India Federation at CBCI Centre, New Delhi - 12th January - 14th January 2020.
Regional Labour Commission Meeting - 11th December - 12th December 2019 (West Bengal)
Asia Pacafic Working Group Meeting (ICMC) 30 Nov - 05 December 2019 (Bangkok)
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