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Dhalla controversy underlines vulnerability of caregivers
Orlando Marcelino on 06/03/2009 at 6:08pm (UTC)
 Dhalla controversy underlines vulnerability of caregivers
by Orlando Marcelino
published in the Winnipeg Free Press
27/05/2009

The Free Press has quoted the lawyer of MP Ruby Dhalla saying that Magdelene Gordo, one of the three foreign workers who gave a testimony before a House of Commons committee, has a pattern of employer-abuse allegations since she has made a similar claim in the past.

It is understandable that Dhalla's lawyer sees it that way. But our local organization, Damayan Manitoba, sees the contrary. We see a pattern of abuse and the vulnerability to abuse on caregivers under the federal Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

From reports Damayan has received from workers' advocates all across Canada, many foreign workers have cited serious allegations of employer abuses for a long time. The LCP puts the workers in a very vulnerable situation by working and living at their employers' homes. While there are employers who are kind and respectful to caregivers, LCP's "live-in" requirement can easily lead to abuses such as long working hours without due compensation.

Workers have lodged other complaints such as unpaid salaries for months, no weekend rest, and their passports withheld by employers. Many workers choose to keep silent and bear the abuses because they are afraid to be without a valid employer and consequently jeopardize their regular money remittances to their families. These workers would dutifully endure 24 months of live-in arrangement within a three-year period to be eligible to apply for an open permit. This status will eventually give them a landed immigrant status and the option to sponsor their families. It could take an average of five years of family separation from the time these workers arrive in Canada to the time their families can rejoin them.

What the federal government and the provincial government should do is take a closer look at LCP and amend it to provide protection and welfare to these hard-working caregivers.

Our fundamental demand is to allow live-in caregivers to come as landed immigrants. This will mitigate vulnerability to abuses associated with the temporary status of these workers under this program.

Five changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program are needed.

First, the work permit should be made job-specific instead of employer specific.

The mandatory live-in requirement should be made optional. Give the caregiver the option to live in or out of their employer's home.

The operation and practices of employment agencies and private individuals involved in the recruitment of foreign caregivers and other migrant workers should be regulated and monitored. (We're happy to see the Manitoba government has a legislation on protecting foreign workers.)

The employment standards and occupational health and safety acts for caregivers and other migrant workers should be implemented and enforced in the same way as these apply to all Canadians and permanent residents.

The UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families should be signed and statutes for its implementation should be adopted.

_______
Orlando Marcelino is the co-ordinator of Damayan Manitoba, an organization that defends the rights of new immigrants and temporary workers from Philippines. Damayan means "caring for one another" in Tagalog.

 

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Damayan Manitoba  
  Damayan-Manitoba is a progressive organization for Filipino immigrants in Manitoba. Damayan works for social and economic justice for Filipino migrant workers.

Damayan initiates and promotes socio-political and economic campaigns and activities in support and in defense of the democratic rights of the Filipino people, particularly migrant workers and the oppressed sectors of our society.

Damayan is a member-organization of BAYAN CANADA and MIGRANTE INTERNATIONAL and works with other patriotic and progressive organizations and individuals here and abroad.

Damayan condemns the unabated political killings of over 1,000 workers, peasants, pastors, student leaders, journalists, lawyers, women, indigenous people and other social activists in the Philippines.

"Damayan" is a Filipino word that means "Caring for one another."
 
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