Statement prepared by SIKLAB National (Advance and Uphold the Struggles of Filipino Canadian Workers)
April 22, 2015
Toronto, ON— The enactment of the “4 in 4 out” rule this past April 1st, affecting tens of thousands of workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), is a telling message exposing the Canadian Government’s intensifying attacks on transnational workers and undocumented people and their families. SIKLAB National and its sister organizations, the Philippine Women Centre National and the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance National denounce the unjust treatment of the most vulnerable, oppressed and exploited sectors of our communities whom are mercilessly illegalized and criminalized by the newly enacted rule. Though using the threat of detention and deportation as a scare-tactic to keep temporary foreign workers complacent and fearful is nothing new, the four-year deadline makes the immigration system a more efficient tool in implementing neoliberal policies to drive down domestic wages, cut benefits and further deteriorate the overall labour, employment and living standards for all workers in Canada. As an organization of progressive workers critical of the impacts of neoliberal policies on transnational communities and the broader working-class, we stand against the hyper-commodification of workers that devalue and deny people’s rights and entitlements to secure and stable livelihoods.
The “4 in 4 out” rule, also known as the “cumulative duration” rule, was first instituted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2011 as part of the Conservative government’s push for more temporary labour streams in immigration and to upset pathways to permanent residency. Under the “4 in 4 out” scheme of the TFWP, people mostly from countries in the Global South are recruited to work in Canada for a period of four years as nannies, domestic workers, restaurant workers, agricultural workers and various other service-sector occupations. The rule will affect workers who have come to Canada under the program prior to 2011 but have not yet been granted permanent resident status. There is a farce claim that there are deep labour shortages unmet by local workers in these occupations and industries, but the plain truth is that regular Canadians are simply not willing to do the dirtiest, difficult and dangerous jobs under deplorable working conditions and abusive employment terms as suffered by temporary foreign workers. After the four-year work permit expires, workers are ordered to exit the country and re-apply for another permit only after the duration of four consecutive years of being outside Canada have passed. The other option would be for the workers to remain in Canada with a visitor’s visa or as an international student but be barred from obtaining employment during the four-year period.
These so-called “options” are both unrealistic and unfeasible for workers who have to keep working for the survival of their families. It is clear that the rule was deliberately designed to give no real choices at all. Canada has a very long history of importing labour from other countries to prop its’ own economy and has continued to flourish as one of the G8 nations through intensifying its neoliberal agenda of keeping workers vulnerable, cheap, extremely flexible and disposable. These systemic barriers have long since been put into place to treat workers coming under the TFWP as mere revenue-generating commodities and ensures maximum profitability by using an impermanent and disposable labour force for permanent labour demands. The revolving-door is but one tool CIC uses to systemically create and “manage” an expendable underclass of workers. Without official immigration status and no access to essential services such as healthcare and social services, the massive deportation orders of approximately 70,000 temporary foreign workers will proliferate further precarity and unscrupulous circumstances as many will try to remain in Canada after having established many connections within the communities they have come to call their home.
Within the past two years, we have seen an unprecedented upsurge of controversies pertaining various companies outsourcing job positions to employment recruitment agencies hiring temporary foreign workers, such as Royal Bank of Canada, HD Mining, MacDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Denny’s etc. While the federal government tries to wash its hands clean by heavily laying blame on companies and employers, and at the same time propagate racist and anti-immigrant narratives of temporary foreign workers “over-staying” their welcome, it is crucial to identify the role of government policies in creating the very program that facilitate the widespread abuses in the first place.
The promise and the possibility of being able to call Canada home has historically been used as a lure by programs such as the TFWP, but such schemes are designed primarily as labour recruitment programs, not genuine immigration programs. There is a vast majority of applicants that are irrefutably kept from ever attaining permanent residency let alone citizenship. The recruitment of temporary transnational workers are extremely lucrative and exponentially beneficial to the profit-driven corporate agenda of the Canadian state precisely because of their legislated impermanence, which from the onset excludes them as “outsiders” denied of legal rights, entitlements and protections. The vital contributions and difficult sacrifices of hard working transnational workers has made the Canadian economy one of the “strongest” in the world, yet they are treated with scrutiny and are expelled from the land they helped build because of an arbitrarily imposed rule that determines them illegal simply with the passing of time.
Under the Conservative government, the numbers of temporary foreign workers have tripled from 101,098 in 2002 to 338,221 in 2012 and have steadily been rising since then. The workers coming through the TFWP during this period were simultaneously faced with immigration reforms that overhauled pathways to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. In addition, immense cutbacks to settlement programs and services were enacted, along with regressive labour and employment reforms. These periodic changes in government policies are part of austerity measures that have sent transnational workers into deeper social and economic insecurity and instability. Their cheapened and temporary labour has been used to procure the privatization, deregulation, and contractualization of jobs and services in childcare, elderly care, healthcare, education, etc.–strategies that negatively impact the working-class in Canada at large. While there are some that would have the public believe that transnational workers are “job-stealers” and social “burdens”, the government’s retrograde policies of prioritizing profit over people by clawing back social and public services and their continuing drive to devalue transnational labour prove to be the real threats attacking working-class communities.
The Filipino Canadian community is no stranger to such neoliberal policies and the long lasting impacts they have on our continuing struggle for genuine settlement and integration, successful development, and entitlements to fully participate in the broader economic, cultural, social and political arena. The need to stand in solidarity along working-class lines grow more crucial as the immigration system persists to be used as a divisive tool to relegate transnational workers into perpetual impermanence and desperation on the one hand, while attacking the overall employment and labour standards in Canada on the other. As a transnational community predominantly composed of workers that have come through labour recruitment programs like the Foreign Domestic Movement, Canada’s Caregiver Program (formerly known as the Live-in Caregiver Program), and other streams under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, SIKLAB, PWC and the FCYA will continue to help advance and uphold the working-class struggle in Canada against the onslaught of labour contractualization, flexibilization and commodification under capitalism and the neoliberal agenda of globalization.
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Genuine settlement and integration, not deportation!
Stop the commodification, contractualization and flexibilization of labour!
Expose and oppose the neoliberal agenda!
Advance and uphold the working-class struggle!
Long live workers’ solidarity!
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