For immediate release
April 12, 2013
Toronto, ON—The Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians (CPFC) denounces the empty rhetoric behind the Conservative government’s economic action plan and its 2013 federal budget in purporting to advance “Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity,” as it instead tables an attempt to jeopardize the employment, development and future security and stability of all workers in Canada. The 2013 budget has again proven where the Conservative government’s priorities lie, as the interests of big business and corporate development are prioritized above all else—such as having meaningful and secure employment and accessible and affordable public services. This next phase of the economic action plan follows suit in the clawing back of already deeply-recessed public funds and services, as inflicted by massive cutbacks and austerity measures. The CPFC continues to question and challenge the outright assault of the neoliberal agenda that is tightly woven into the budget as it intently degrades and devalues the roles of working-class communities as vital contributors and builders of Canada.
We stand critical against the rhetoric of “job creation” and “job skills training” commonly delivered by the current government, as it is used to mask their attempts to “remake the Canadian labour force” by no means other than making labour more flexible, disposable and cheap. Wages are not only stagnant but are in fact being systematically pushed down. We have seen such attacks against our wages and livelihood through the following: the Employment Insurance changes that essentially push the unemployed to accept “similar” jobs but at a lower wage; the creation of the multi-tiered wage structure that allow employers to pay temporary foreign workers up to 15% less than the provincial standard; and the rise in unemployment, with the 7% national unemployment rate amounting to an estimated 1.3 million jobless Canadians. Rather than addressing this employment crisis, the 2013 federal budget’s direction will only lead to further unemployment and instability for all workers.
The lack of the government’s genuine will to address unemployment is evident in the prevalence of market-based and employer-driven subsidies in the budget. These programs stand to give workers the short end of the stick in increasing the role of the private sector and in intensifying competition amongst workers. For instance, the “Canada Job Grant” will subsidize employers up to $5,000 per worker for the training of unemployed or underemployed Canadians for in-demand trades and high-skill jobs. Yet despite youth unemployment reaching a staggering 14%, with tuition debt burgeoning at equally-staggering rates, the budget lacks anything to substantially address this crisis and is instead limited to the scope of what the private sector offers. Such short-term measures fail to tackle the lingering reality that there is only one available job for approximately every 5.7 people unemployed. While seemingly promising, the grant otherwise aims to give the private sector absolute power in deciding whether or not to invest and train Canadians to fulfill labour gaps.
The drive to make labour cheaper and more temporary is no more evident than the expansion of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). Despite seemingly attempting to mitigate the need for foreign workers by imposing new “screening” procedures for employers to ensure that Canadians get the first whiff of job openings, this year’s budget aims to achieve an increased target of bringing in 200,000 more workers through this stream. While there are more educated and highly-skilled labour than ever before, temporary migration is preferred for its sheer profitability. As such, it is clear that Canada has become a safe-haven for businesses and corporations with the license to further exploit workers from abroad or in-land.
We also stand critical against empty and divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric that perpetuates the myth of immigrants “stealing” jobs from “regular Canadians,” particularly as the TFWP is essentially a government program, with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) as its main shareholders. Under the current government’s expansion of the TFWP, the 51% increase in the number of temporary workers to 446,847 by 2011 from 224,051 in 2005 is significant in stark comparison with the 5% decrease in permanent streams to 248,748 by 2011 from 262,242 in 2005. The rise of temporary work, the highly exploitative working conditions they entail and the presence of temporary workers from abroad who fulfill them must be understood for what it really is—a business plan devised for the restructuring of the labour market, one that is tailored to diminish labour and employment standards for all workers in Canada.
Such priorities are evident in the recent firing of 43 Royal Bank IT workers, who were consequently replaced with cheaper, outsourced workers from India. Immigration minister Jason Kenney was quick to point out the illegality of displacing citizen workers with foreign workers, but took no culpability at the role of government in providing such a system in the first place. Canada has a long-standing history of using temporary, flexible and cheap labour to prop up the global competitiveness of the Canadian economy. We must look no further than at the service sector to see such practices, where companies bring in hundreds of thousands of temporary workers under strict and highly exploitable working conditions.
As the Philippines has become the largest source of migrants and immigrants to Canada, the CPFC knows full well the repercussions of having temporary migration programs inform and dictate the life circumstances and conditions of workers. We refuse to have these programs continually “stamp and seal” the lives of the workers under them into deskilling, non-accreditation and marginalization. As such, we will continue to advance our struggle to settle, integrate, and fully participate in Canadian society.
With this year’s budget focusing on market profitability at the cost of the needs and development of working people in Canada, the Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians resound our call to put an end to economic insecurity and volatility and demand a path that prioritizes job security and genuine development for all workers. As the grip of neoliberal policies and practices continue to tighten their hold on our needs to flourish and thrive as human beings, fighting for our entitlement as working-class communities to live fuller lives in a healthy and sustainable environment has never been more essential.
Scrap the Temporary Foreign Workers Program!
Permanent settlement through genuine immigration now!
Stop the cuts! End the contractualization of labour!
Expose and oppose neoliberal globalization!
Organizations under the CPFC:
National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC)
SIKLAB Canada (Advance and Uphold the Struggle of Filipino Canadian Workers)
Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance—National
Sinag Bayan Arts Collective—National
Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights (PCTFHR)