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Toronto – May 11, 2015 – UFCW Canada activists joined social justice allies from Canada's Filipino community and beyond, to protest the worker and human rights violations by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's government as well as by the Harper government, during a recent meeting between the two countries’ leaders in Toronto.
The protest, supported by UFCW Canada community allies Bayan Canada and Migrante Canada, was pointed at Aquino and Harper over changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the Live-In Caregiver Program that do not address ongoing issues many Filipino migrant workers face in Canada.
"We have nothing but disgust about the current insensitivity of government officials to the ongoing problems of Filipino migrant workers," Bayan Canada and Migrante Canada said in a joint statement. "In Prime Minister Harper's pronouncements regarding the visit, nothing was mentioned about this glaringly urgent topic. What is clear is that the changes are, on the whole, bad news for workers. The changes establish a steady supply of cheap labour from the Philippines, and the permanent pegging of only short-term and low-waged jobs for Filipinos."
Activist at the rally also protested the human rights violations and lack of economic opportunities in the Philippines, and the shortfall of environmental and social protection for indigenous populations affected by Canadian mining companies working in the Philippines.
In recent years, Philippine-born individuals have become the largest group of temporary foreign workers in Canada. Many find themselves in precarious working conditions, resulting in the further disenfranchisement of Filipino immigrants.
For some of these workers, unions have been able to assist them in negotiating collective bargaining agreements – including breakthrough UFCW Canada local union contracts which at some locations provide a pathway to permanent status for temporary foreign workers. “Labour rights are human rights for all workers in Canada — including migrant and temporary foreign workers,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. “Shamefully, the Harper government acts otherwise, and continues to promote a system that is meant to keep temporary foreign workers vulnerable to exploitation.”