Live-in caregivers take pots & pans out of the kitchen and into the streets to demand scrapping of program

For Immediate Release – January 14, 2010

Countering superficial reforms proposed by the federal government to improve the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), Filipino women and concerned community members will rally to reiterate and heighten their demand to scrap the abuse-laden immigration and labour program on Saturday, Jan. 16th, 12:00pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St. on the Robson St. side).

In a lively display with pots and pans, aprons, and strollers asserting their political slogans, voices of youth, migrant workers, mothers, and caregivers unite to expose how the program does not “work for everyone” as defended at the local announcement of “significant improvements” to the LCP on behalf of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

“The recent changes do not even scratch the surface of improving the situation of live-in caregivers,” declares Glecy Duran, Chairperson of SIKLAB – B.C., an organization for Filipino migrant workers and their families. “As long as the fundamental pillars of the program remain untouched, no meaningful change for the better is possible,” Duran asserts.

The LCP is a federal program that recruits live-in caregivers with only temporary immigration status. They are forced to live-in their employer’s homes with an employer-specific work permit and must complete 24 months of this type of work within three years of entry into Canada under the program’s present arrangement. They are not allowed to bring their families with them during their period of temporary work often burdened with very low wages, precarious working conditions, and human rights abuses. Over 95% of those entering Canada under the LCP are women from the Philippines.

” Extending the length of time to complete the mandatory period of work from three to four years, the choice between calculating the work time period as 24 months or 3900 hours, and waive the second medical examination means no real change to the program at all,” stated Duran. “Instead, the changes further entrench the use of temporary foreign labour, divides workers, and undermines the struggle for universal child care, health care, as well as women’s and workers’ rights in Canada,” she explained.

Filipino women, who comprise the majority of live-in caregivers, are set to take to the streets with a unified demand to “End it, don’t mend it, scrap the LCP!” Instead of being used as cheap labour to fill the void left by the lack of child care and health care programs that are accessible to all working families, they are campaigning to be allowed to enter Canada with landed status, with their families, and with the right to choose their type of employment commensurate to their education and skills. They reject the notion that the LCP is an issue that solely concerns the Filipino community, but rather, it affects all Canadians because because the LCP is Canada’s de-facto national childcare program and privatized health care that only benefits those who can afford it.

“A program that is exploitative down to its very core, the LCP must be done away with completely,” asserted Duran. “With recent attempts to dampen our concerted efforts to expose and oppose the LCP with a bureaucratic facelift, we are even more determined to put an end to the misery our women suffer under this program of modern-day slavery,” she concluded.

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One Response to “Live-in caregivers take pots & pans out of the kitchen and into the streets to demand scrapping of program”

  1. Susan Says:

    As advocates in defence of employee safety and satisfaction, our team’s philosophy focuses on doing our part to improve the work lives of migrant workers, more specifically, those in the front line of community health care, through advanced education. As employers of home care workers for over 35 years, we have come to appreciate the value of our staff, the majority of whom are women and men from the Philippines. Many have come to Canada under the LCP, and have persevered through their Live In Caregiver experience, to attain their goals of gainful employment, in health care. They use the strengths, natural compassion and relevant experience they had gained through employment as live in care aides, to pursue employment in a somewhat related field, that of caring for the elderly. The most significant change, of course, was not so much in the routine work they were doing, but in the nature of the employer.

    Those care aides who sought employment with agencies that provide home health care managed to upgrade their standard of living, and regain their feelings of empowerment through the protection of employment laws and/or collective agreement provisions that provide them with recourse in the event they face unfair work practices. This is the most glaring difference between working for a private employer under the Live In Caregiver Program, and working for a licensed agency.

    Notwithstanding the difficulties they face during employment as Live In Caregivers, which must be addressed through better, more formal advocacy and protection rights for migrant workers, one thing remains clear and true – the only way out is through further, formal education. Those that choose to stay in the caregiver/health field must have formal education now. Agencies don’t hire care aides without certification, they are mandated to hire certified workers, through the health authority guidelines.

    As a result of our interest in the future of health care and the value of migrant workers to sustain a demand/supply balance in the home care industry, we recognize the importance of respect and dignity for workers in this field. After employing care aides for several years, it became obvious that education in the community care field, typically referred to as RCA (Residential Care Aides but now referred to as Health Care Assistants) lacked an essential component – that of teaching care aides how to be successful in community home care. Relevant education, support and advocacy, and (employers’) sincere respect for their role in the health care system are only some of the critical success factors for home care workers.

    While most programs focus on the facility aspect, care aides, particularly those who have experienced the Live In Caregiver program, know that working in home care requires a completely different mindset than those working under direct supervision (and thus protection) of supervisor who is present in the building. Home care aides are exposed to far more risk situations in terms of client behavior and their own self-reliance to respond to a situation with no immediate supervision. We teach them how to process problems, through critical thinking and decision-making processes. We acknowledge the unique challenges to home care workers and make every effort to support them through the learning process, to enable them to be successful, safe, and satisfied with what they do, as employees and as human beings.

    There is no doubt that changes need to be made for Live In Caregiver protection against unethical, or unscrupulous employers through the LCP. Until the government steps in to create some type of “watchdog” process, to make employers accountable for their actions, to urge them to comply witht the Terms and Conditions within the Contracts they sign with Live In Caregivers, we reinforce postiive action for care aides who have endured their experiences, to take the next step in achieving their original goals for permanent employment in Canada, with decent working conditions and remuneration.

    Please visit our blog at http://drakecollege.wordpress.com/ to check us out, to read about our philosophy, and the education community we are trying to build, as our part in acknowledging, and appreciating the value of migrant workers in Canada’s health care system.

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