As the economic crisis worsens, Filipino Church supports workers’ rights
by Santosh Digal
Catholic religious leaders are “responsive” to workers and their problems, open to pro-active intervention to protect their rights. Church and trade unions are working on a seven-point plan to protect workers, migrants and the poor.

Manila (AsiaNews) – At a time of worldwide economic crisis, the Catholic Church stands by workers and labourers, who are among the groups most affected by the recession. Yesterday Card Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila, and Mgr Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of the capital, met labour groups, assuring them that the Church would engage in a more pro-active “intervention” on behalf of labour protection and workers’ rights.

Labour groups such as Federation of Free Workers (FFW), the Alliance of Progressive Labor, Partido ng Manggagawa and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino were present at the meeting.

Fr Eric Adoviso, chair of the Manila Archdiocesan Ministry for Labor Concerns, said the Church involvement is in line with its effort “to be a more responsive Church” to the concerns of workers.

Father Adoviso said that Cardinal Rosales will issue a pastoral statement on May 1, Labour Day, dealing with the labour crisis and how the government is responding to it.

In the meeting, Church and labour leaders agreed to campaign initially on seven key issues like unemployment subsidy/insurance for laid-off workers, including overseas Filipino workers; overturning Supreme Court decisions on labour related cases; reforms of the government’s job creation and livelihood support policies; extension of Philhealth (health insurance) coverage to those displaced and universal health care for the poor; a moratorium on demolition, eviction and foreclosure; a moratorium on tuition hikes in educational institutes; and the protection for workers from manipulative business schemes.

Trade unions have welcomed the Filipino Church’s involvement on labour issues, saying this is a sign that the Church is interested and concerned about the working class. They also noted that they would like to see the two sides join forces to push for a common agenda. In fact Church and labour leaders are set to meet again on 7 May to discuss other issues, and work out joint proposals to submit to the government.

Recently the Department of Labor and Employment reported that over 100,000 Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers, have been affected by the crisis.

FFW information officer Julius Arganoza said labour groups have sought the support of Cardinal Rosales and bishops from Metro Manila to join them in the fight for workers’ rights.