96% of the workers in India work in the informal economy. Domestic workers, construction, you name it, most is unorganized, and so no taxes are paid. An important doorway to get the informal sector organized, is through social security. Employers in India often don’t want to provide their workers with certification, because of course it would expose them. And the social security system can’t accept anybody on their simple claim that they are working in a specific sector. This is where the trade union comes in. Pathinathan, from the Sivanganai Diocese, where he presides the local Christian Workers Movement India unit, explains how they set up a workers union for the construction that was registered in 1999. Hence, they can offer ID cards that allow the members access to social security. This gives them the right to education support (especially for daughters, to stimulate girls going to school), pension schemes (of 1.000Rps per month after 60 years) and insurance in case of death or accidents (max. 100.000Rps). Currently, they have over 650 members that can thus enjoy these benefits.

When asked what was the most significant change he had witnessed, he also shared the story of Boss, a Hindu guy with two children, who is illiterate. After getting involved with CWM and their awareness program regarding the importance of education, Boss went to great lengths to send his two children to schools and motivate them to study. The daughter has obtained a B Sc in chemistry and the boy… has just become a teacher in a public school. Such a change in a generation time.

Xavier, the representative from CWM from Trichy, brought up Regina, a dalit christian. Her husband and Regina worked as day workers, coolies, for big landowners. The revolving fund program of CWM allowed Regina to get a goat, which provided milk for cheese and she could quit working as a day worker, though her husband continued. With the money she made from the goat, she managed to get a piece of land, allowing her husband to also quit working as a coolie and now they produce their own crops. Regina lives in a dalit village, where her example had a snow ball effect among several of the 15 families living there. Regina now serves as the general secretary for the local CWM unit…