Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mexican and Filipino migrant workers criticize Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers Program

May Day 2007 Organizing Committee
Press Release

For immediate release: April 27, 2007

(VANCOUVER, B.C.) – Mexican and Filipino migrant workers shared stories of precarious working conditions, low pay and fears of deportation at a community forum in Vancouver last week. With recent news of a fatal accident at an Alberta oil sands project involving Chinese foreign workers, forum organizers from the May Day Organizing Committee say the need for discussion about the community's concerns with Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers Program is urgent.

Gilberto Valencia from Justicia for Migrant Workers spoke about the experiences of Mexican migrant workers, thousands of whom enter Canada annually under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. He said that they are required to work for minimum wage and often work six or seven days a week for 12 hours a day, with no overtime or holiday pay. "Some workers are forced to eat, cook and go to the bathroom in the open air, even with the weather we have here in Canada!" stated Valencia.

Daniel Vargas , also from Justicia for Migrant Workers, said that the workers can only complain about poor working conditions to their employers or to the Mexican consulate. "But rather than protecting the rights of these Mexican migrant workers, the consulate acts more like an employment agency and a real estate office. They are more interested in selling cheap labour and land to Canada, while the migrant workers end up going back to Mexico with hardly anything," declared Vargas.

Alex Imperial of SIKLAB (an organization of overseas Filipino workers) spoke about the community's call to scrap the racist and anti-woman Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and for Citizenship Immigration Canada to implement an immediate moratorium on the deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers. "As the de-facto national childcare program of Canada, the LCP has brought in thousands of our women but legislated them and their families into poverty and underdevelopment," said Imperial. He also shared that Filipino migrant workers receive little support or assistance from the Philippine consulate.

Both groups sounded the alarm bell against the expansion of Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers Program. "We see more Filipinos, Mexicans and workers from other countries coming here as temporary workers to work on big projects like the RAV line," said Imperial. "But we question whether Canada is upholding their rights as workers and giving them access to the full scope of social benefits and security they deserve."

The forum speakers also noted that the presence of foreign temporary workers in Canada should be carefully analyzed within a global context. Stated Imperial, "It is important that we name the crisis of imperialism as the underlying cause of international migration. We should debunk the claims of governments that migration is necessary to maintain economic growth and to deal with an aging workforce. We knowinternational migration is used by the capitalist countries precisely to keep us as sources of cheap labour."

As the forum concluded, participants drew inspiration from the victories of both Justicia and SIKLAB in organizing these marginalized workers. They took note of the growing resistance of such workers in Canada and in the U.S. Rallies in both Canada and the U.S. are set for May 1 to mark International Labour Day and to highlight the situation of immigrant, migrant and undocumented workers.

In Vancouver, a march and rally is set for Tuesday, May 1, 2007 starting at 6:00 pm at Clark Park (Commercial Drive & East 14th Avenue) and marching down to Grandview Park on Commercial Drive and Charles St.

- 30 –

For more information, please contact:
- Hetty Alcuitas, media liaison May Day 2007 Organizing Committee at ph: 604-215-1103.