National Alliance of Philippine Women Canada National Statement
December 4, 2014
Toronto, ON—With the Federal Government’s announcement of the recent changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC) continue to challenge the inherently violent and abusive mechanisms of the program that, at the very core, has remained to regulate the temporariness, vulnerability, exploitation and oppression of the workers under it. In full effect since November 30, 2014, the changes have sent community members, the media and the general public into mixed and disarrayed conceptions of what the changes mean for workers, specifically Filipino women under the program, our community, and for working class families at large. Amidst a range of reactions, criticisms and opinions on the changes, the NAPWC stand firm that the program, and the so-called “improvements” therein, have always been a neoliberal tool to facilitate and profit from the gleaned fear and desperation of workers in the program.
The Filipino Canadian community cannot accept these as “improvements” as announcements of cosmetic changes are being branded as such. The Conservative Government’s Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander are playing games with the Filipino Canadian community and with the lives of those who are directly or indirectly affected by the LCP. Cecilia Diocson, Executive Director of the NAPWC, contends that “from Kenney to Alexander the push to hit the temporary workers can no longer be ignored. They have started to deliver the changes little by little using the usual tactics of keeping the workers quiet and compliant while pitting the advocates in the arena to fight against each other. This is very clear in our community’s diverse political positions and perspectives.” Diocson continued to assert that “as we have always looked at the bigger political picture of labour, capital and globalization, we know that Alexander’s position is not just hypocritical, it is part of an anti-worker neoliberal agenda through and through that pretends to protect the working class through a foreign workers program that mainly benefits capital.”
Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the revised program will funnel workers into two new pathways; namely the Caring for Children Pathway and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Pathway. Work experience eligibility requirements for applicants under the childcare pathway must have at least two years of Canadian work experience as a home childcare provider, and applicants under the high medical needs pathway are required to fulfill a minimum of two years of Canadian work experience as a registered nurse, registered psychiatric nurse, licensed practical nurse, nurse aide, patient service associate, home support worker or similar healthcare provider occupations with a work permit.
In addition, the new changes will also process applicants based on the Human Capital Criteria. This means that applicants will need to have a one-year completed Canadian post-secondary credential or equivalent foreign credential, and must undergo a language proficiency test of at least an intermediate level for childcare providers and a level ranging from initial intermediate to adequate intermediate for healthcare providers depending on the occupation. But since the 1980’s, highly-educated and highly-skilled caregivers have been carrying out domestic work, providing home childcare and care for the elderly, and people with disabilities and high medical needs. Under the previous rules, academic upgrading was not mandatory for caregivers fulfilling the requirements of the program. The Human Capital Criteria does not bare any breadth of our community’s reality as these new requirements create new, more stringent and debilitating barriers. Completing a Canadian post-secondary credential for a minimum of one year is an economic nfeasibility for an overwhelming majority of workers under the program. At the tip of the iceberg, caregivers are often paid lower than the minimum wage and are already triply-taxed for being the main providers for their immediate and extended family members.
The changes also include capping the applications for permanent residency at a maximum total of 5,500 principal applicants. Each new pathway is allocated a maximum of 2,750 applications for permanent residency processing. This provision is a clear gate-keeping maneuver to keep the majority of workers entering the country under temporary pretexts. Given the measly total of 5,500, these numbers will face further scrutiny and deterrence because merely applying for permanent residency does not automatically guarantee a successful processing. In essence, this will structurally yield less successful applications than the promised maximum of 5,500 applications being granted permanent residency. These specific changes have also been promoted as solutions to the backlog in the tens of thousands of permanent residency applications. This is the Federal Government’s administrative failure and their responsibility to clear-up. The applicants, their families and their communities should not have to suffer for the government’s negligence.
Finally, the changes have also made the live-in requirement optional so as to offer workers the choice to either live-in their employer’s home or work on a live-out basis. But because the work permits are employer-specific, the power to decide on a live-in or a live-out employment term still disproportionately belongs to the employer.
The social and economic impacts of the Live-in Caregiver Program has historically led to the deskilling, marginalization, exploitation and oppression of an entire community. What the government’s changes to the program have shown time and again is the clear intent to minimize and constrict the pathways to genuine and permanent immigration and maximize the impermanence and instability of workers coming through the program.
By critically analyzing these changes, we see that these do not meet our community’s demands for genuine permanent immigration, the successful economic and social development of caregivers, nor do they address the systemic and outright denial of the rights and entitlements of the workers and their families. What persists under new guises are the “rotating door” policies of immigration, the usage of the program as the defacto program for the absence of a universal childcare program and a sustainable healthcare system, and the conniving and divisive ploys to isolate the struggles borne out of the efforts of courageous women, workers and people of colour affected by the LCP. While the changes have essentially eliminated the Live-in Caregiver Program for the worse, the NAPWC asserts that the neoliberal policies that render workers impermanent, indentured and endangered are made more blatant by the new changes.
As progressive Filipino Canadians, the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada, along with our ally organizations, reiterate our calls to end the neoliberal agenda of labour casualization and flexibilization and the outright attack on workers’ rights, entitlements and the broader struggle for women’s equality and liberation. Acknowledging that these changes are by no means nothing we have not encountered as a community before, it is of grave importance now, more than ever, that the Filipino Canadian community, and other marginalized communities, continue to confront neoliberalism, call it for what it is and uphold the working-class women’s struggles and liberation at the fore of our collective efforts for social transformation. We will continue to struggle for the genuine settlement, successful integration, and the full participation and entitlements of the Filipino Canadian community as part of the broader working class struggle against neoliberalism in Canada.
Women’s liberation is non-negotiable!
Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
Scrap the anti-woman, racist LCP! Universal childcare now!
Genuine immigration now!
Expose and oppose neoliberal policies!
Stop the neoliberal agenda of globalization!
End the contractualization and flexibilization of labour!
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