Harper government’s scapegoating of RBC: a futile attempt at washing their hands clean of anti-worker agenda

//Harper government’s scapegoating of RBC: a futile attempt at washing their hands clean of anti-worker agenda

Harper government’s scapegoating of RBC: a futile attempt at washing their hands clean of anti-worker agenda

For immediate release
April 18, 2013

Toronto, ON—The Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians (CPFC) admonish the Conservative government’s hypocrisy in putting on a façade of righteousness amidst the controversial lay-offs by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) of citizen workers and their subsequent replacement by temporary foreign workers. As the leading brokers and agents who have legislated and legitimized such flexible labour regimes, the Conservative government must be held responsible for the “restructuring” of the Canadian labour force as cheap, flexible and disposable through the expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). RBC’s firing of about 45 employees and subsequent replacement with Indian IT specialists, for the sheer benefit of acquiring cheaper labour and for cutting costs, stands as but one example of the neoliberal agenda’s ongoing attack on the livelihood and well-being of all working people in Canada. While the rights and needs of all workers continue to be disregarded and circumvented over the interests of the private and corporate sectors, the Conservative government cannot continue to operate with impunity and must be held accountable.

The insincere address of Prime Minister Harper on the issue must be recognized as a mere diversion from the primary role that the government plays in creating and implementing the very policies that deregulate, contractualize and cheapen labour in Canada. It is these policies that have given corporations free reign in recruiting workers from abroad at more “cost-effective” rates.

A spokesperson for Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), commended RBC’s CEO for “doing the right thing” by giving a prompt public apology, yet all the while carrying forward standing agreements with outsourcing firm iGATE to replace the fired employees. But Finley herself, and the rest of the Conservatives under the leadership of Harper, refuse to take full accountability over the matter.

The deceit runs deeper as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Jason Kenney hastily placed all the blame on businesses and corporations for abusing the system and not following the law—rules and regulations that are left malleable to promote access to cheap labour in the first place. “We refuse to be fooled by the two-faced Harper government. They are all too quick to slap corporations on the wrist over widespread public disapproval of outsourcing, yet they expand the TFWP and peddle it to employers behind closed doors,” states Cecilia Diocson, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC).

Under the administration of both CIC and HRSDC as its main shareholders, the TFWP has undergone a string of reforms that have made it more market-driven and employer-friendly. With the plan to bring in 200,000 more workers through the program, and the push to shorten the number of weeks it currently takes to obtain a Labour Market Opinion—a mandatory document that grants employers the license to hire workers from outside Canada and is essentially an “all-access pass” to cheap labour—from 12-14 weeks to 10 weeks, it is doubtful that the Conservative government will stray from the path of precarious work they have long been paving.

Just last year, the government granted over 4,000 approvals to hire temporary workers to meet the cheap labour demands of service sector companies such as McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Subway and Denny’s, to name a few. As well, roughly 25,500 from the estimated 190,000 temporary foreign workers who arrived in 2012 were sent to Alberta to work in oil extraction projects, manufacturing and in service sector jobs, while others were stationed throughout the country’s major cities. Recently, HD Mining International, owned by Huiyong Holdings Group, a Chinese private company, and Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group, acquired more than 200 work permits under the TFWP for Chinese miners to work in coal mines in Tumbler Ridge, B.C, where more than 300 local miners applied for the jobs but were deemed “unqualified.”

Thus far, the federal government has made it clear that they have no intention in slowing down their drive for a cheaper and more temporary workforce and have also shown a lack of genuine will to tackle the critical issue of unemployment. Reuben Sarumugam, Chairperson of the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC-FCYA) stated that “the path of temporariness has to stop. It robs all workers of job security by treating them as disposable commodities. It denies all workers in Canada of their entitlements and their ability to fully contribute to the Canadian economy in the long run. This is not just about RBC employees or temporary foreign workers. This is about the future of all working people in Canada. Therefore, the call for the job security of one is a call for the job security of all.”

“While Harper and Kenney have been busy pointing fingers and putting the blame on RBC, we must look no further than to the regressive policies of the Conservative government for putting the lives of workers in a constant state of insecurity and instability and depriving us of living stable and fulfilling lives,” stated Yolyn Valenzuela, Chairperson of SIKLAB Canada. “We must put an end to their agenda of contractualization that will send our society deeper into recession and instability while private corporations amass wealth off the exploitation of working-class communities,” Valenzuela continued.

“CIC and HRSDC has made it all too convenient for users of the TFWP to suppress wages, undermine workers rights, and diminish employment standards, while dividing and preying on the desperation of working people in Canada,” added Valenzuela. “The only real divide we have to be critical about is the one between those who own the capital and benefit from this exploitative system, and the workers who toil under it,” Valenzuela concluded.

The Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians demands responsibility and accountability from the Conservative government for their self-excusing position and for driving workers further into instability. As women, youth and workers, the CPFC stands in solidarity with all workers in their demand for job security and will continue to help advance and uphold the struggles of the working-class.

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!

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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)

For more information, contact:
Bryan Taguba
(416) 519-2553
siklab-on@magkaisacentre.org
www.magkaisacentre.org
Facebook and Twitter: Siklab Ontario

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