Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Statement for International Migrants Day - International Migrants' Alliance (IMA)

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt
of globalization-induced crisis

Grassroots migrants shall be ready
to intensify our struggle for our rights
December 18, 2008

Neo-liberal globalization has forced us to migrate and become commodities for sale by sending countries and cheap laborers for the receiving ones. Now, as neoliberal policies induced another global recession, we are again made to carry the brunt of the crisis.

Slowly but surely, the crisis that started in the United States is spreading throughout the world. Considering the US’ position as the global economic master, it is understandable that many of the countries where migrants are working right now and countries where they come from are starting to feel the impacts of the crisis that are expected to intensify in the coming months.

The current recession is but an explosion of the crisis brewing for years. The crisis of overproduction inherent in the economy of the global centers – US, European Union and Japan – and hastened by neoliberal globalization policies, has become more uncontrollable than before. Concentration of finance capital to a few multinational banks and corporations through massive speculation has become more intense and made the crisis imminent.

Even the wars of aggression and occupation that the US led and joined in by many capitalist countries have failed to salvage the capitalist system from collapsing. In fact, these wars justified in the name of “anti-terror” have further aggravated the condition in the world as profit became more highly-concentrated while more and more people were displaced.

Now, various countries scramble to save their failing economies with whipped up solutions that are evidently targeted to save big businesses at the expense of the people and the workers who have long been victims of the very roots of this crisis.

The oppressed and disadvantaged classes and sectors that include the migrants did not cause the global crunch and yet, will be forced into more hardships. Indeed, what is just and right has no place where imperialists rule.

Global crisis spells crisis for migrants’ rights

Job security and wage of migrants are the most immediate casualties of the economic crunch.

The more recent cases of these are as follows:
  • More than 70 workers from Advanced Semi-Conductor Engineering Co. Ltd (ASE) in Taiwan were laid off. Reportedly, about 1,000 more are set to be sent home very soon.
  • In Macau, 400 Filipinos have already been fired from their jobs in the construction industry while about 12,000 migrants working in casinos have been told that their contracts will not be renewed.
  • In the property sector in the United Arab Emirates, about 500 migrants already lost their jobs while thousands more are set to lose theirs in the construction industry in various countries within the Gulf region.
  • Member organizations of the IMA in Australia have reported that many temporary foreign workers are being made redundant.
  • In Canada, 70 Mexican and Jamaican temporary foreign workers were fired by the Rol-Land Farms – a private industrial-agricultural corporation.
  • In the US, immigrants are losing their jobs and the little properties they own. Who can forget June Reyno, a Filipino immigrant who tied herself to her house after being issued an eviction notice due to the property slump
In addition to this, the wage of migrants shall surely again be attacked. This was exactly what happened during and after the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Wage of migrants in Korea, for example, dropped from US$750 to US$300 while foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong suffered two wage cuts – US$25 in 1999 and US$52 in 2003.

Undocumented migrants shall also be gravely impacted by the recession. For the past years, many countries have conducted widespread and violent crackdowns such as in Malaysia and South Korea. The European Union is also poised to implement its return directive policy by next year that is expected to target tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in the region.

But the impacts of the global economic problems are not restricted to the host countries. In fact, it may even be more severe in sending countries like Philippines and Indonesia whose economies are very dependent on the advanced capitalist countries like the US.

For sure, the governments of sending countries shall again turn its eye to the very profitable business of labor export.

This is not surprising considering that labor export brings in billions of US dollars worth of remittance to these countries and billions more profit from government charges on top of curbing unemployment inside the country. Both the Philippine and Indonesian governments have already expressed their intention to double their target deployment of their nationals to other countries.

Just recently, the Philippine government has proposed to implement a mandatory psychiatric test. While hypocritically claiming that it’s for protection of Filipino migrants, the truth is that it shall only be an additional financial burden to them and its ultimate goal is to make Filipino migrant workers more attractive to foreign businesses.

Governments of sending countries have tried to placate the restlessness of their people by promising their readiness to face the crisis. This, however, is mere bravado as the economies of these countries are highly-dependent to those of the capitalist centers. Their so-called readiness will soon be revealed as nothing but readiness to impose more severe taxation to the people, drastic cuts in the budget for social services, even more wanton implementation of neo-liberal globalization and more aggressive exportation of labor. In fact, what these countries, like Philippines and Indonesia, are doing now is to forge more bilateral agreements with labor-receiving countries to ensure the continued sale of migrants as cheap labourers.

The way forward for the migrants

These developments and more that will surely come will be faced squarely by the organized grassroots migrants.

The rights of migrants have never been respected. The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held last October in Manila, Philippines showed the hypocrisy of sending and receiving countries as they tackle the so-called rights of migrants but are actually concretizing steps on how more income can be generated from migration and migrant labor.

The International Migrants Day is a most opportune time to expose the condition and concerns of migrant workers. The more than 110 members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) from 25 countries are gearing up for various actions that will highlight issues of migrants of various nationalities as a sector.

In this light, the IMA calls on to its members and supporters to:
1. Launch actions that will highlight the issues of job security and wage of the migrants. Policies that make these rights vulnerable to attacks must be targeted while remaining vigilant over new ones that governments will cook up. Give particular attention also to the plight of undocumented migrants.
2. Conduct a massive education campaign among migrants on the roots and causes of the current global recession. Neoliberal globalization must be further exposed and concretized to the migrants to intensify our opposition against them.
3. Aggressively organize migrants in the grassroots. Only the collective will and actions of the migrants can be our effective weapons against the onslaught of attacks to our rights that are sure to come.
4. Gather the broadest unity with other migrant organizations and advocates for the campaigns that we shall conduct.
5. Unite in solidarity with the local workers and other oppressed classes and sectors in host countries by establishing coalitions with their unions and federations that will serve as shields against neoliberal globalization’s attacks to our rights as workers and oppressed peoples in the host country.
6. Integrate our movement overseas with that in our respective home countries to advance the struggle against imperialism and for genuine democracy, human rights and social justice
In the coming months, migrants are to face hardships never seen before. It will show how right the people are to oppose neoliberal globalization policies. It will show how imperative it is to do actions for social justice and human rights. It will show how migrants are part of the struggle for change.

Through militant struggles, we can overcome and build a world that we and our people deserve.

-- International Migrants' Alliance

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Court victory for migrant workers in Vancouver, Canada

The British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council

MEDIA ADVISORY Wednesday December 3, 2008

Temporary foreign workers on Canada Line construction win precedent-setting BC Human Rights Tribunal discrimination complaint decision worth more than estimated $2.4 million against SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin; Building Trades call for better treatment of all temporary foreign workers across Canada

VANCOUVER – A BC Human Rights Tribunal decision today that temporary foreign workers on the Canada Line rapid transit project were discriminated against will force employers and governments to treat all temporary foreign workers fairly, says the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council (BCYT).

The Tribunal gave the 38 workers from Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador an award estimated at more than $2.4 million for back pay and damages for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect” because Canada Line contractors SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin paid them significantly less than European employees doing the same work on the $2 billion project.

“The BC Human Rights Tribunal made a decision today that will improve the lives of tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers in Canada forever,” said Wayne Peppard, BCYT Executive Director. “All workers in Canada have rights that must be respected, whether they are Canadian citizens or workers who come here from another country – that’s what this decision means.”

The union that the workers’ joined is thrilled and had a warning for employers who exploit temporary foreign workers.

“Employers across Canada in every type of workplace need to make sure they are treating their workers fairly or they will pay a heavy price,” said Mark Olsen, Business Manager, the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union, Local 1611 [known as the Labourers’ Union.] “Non-union foreign workers should now feel free to come forward to be represented and protected by unions.”

The CSWU organized the workers, who were mostly from Costa Rica, after Building Trades officials discovered they were making less than $5 an hour working on Canada Line tunnel construction.

BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said the case will prompt more complaints to the BC Human Rights Tribunal from other BC workers.

“Farmworkers, hotel and hospitality workers and other temporary foreign workers who have been brought to BC and exploited by some unscrupulous employers now have a clear way to improve their lives and win fair wages and working conditions,” Sinclair said. “We will use this decision to help those workers and put an end to employers who want to use them for cheap labour to increase profits.”

Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti also hailed the decision as having national implications.

“There are tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers being brought into every province in Canada without adequate protection,” Georgetti said. “The BC Human Rights Tribunal decision sets a precedent for the whole country and the federal and provincial governments must now act quickly to ensure these workers’ rights are respected by providing full enforcement.”

Enrique Aguilar, a spokesperson for the temporary foreign workers and cousin to one of them, said the workers have returned to their homes in Costa Rica and thanked the Building Trades and CSWU for their strong support.

“The Building Trades and the CSWU have been incredible in their support for a group of workers from another country who were being exploited here in Vancouver,” Aguilar said. “The workers have asked me to convey their enormous thanks for that support – they could not have done this without the help of labour in BC.”

Charles Gordon of FIorillo, Glavin, Gordon, legal counsel for the CSWU on the Human Rights Tribunal case, said he hopes the precedent set by the decision will avoid similar lengthy and expensive hearings for other workers.

“Temporary foreign workers should not have to rely on extensive litigation or suffer lengthy delays to win their basic human rights in Canada,” Gordon said. “I hope this historic decision will make it much easier for other workers to demand fair treatment and encourage governments to adequately protect those rights.”

Wayne Peppard called upon SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin to drop plans to appeal the BC Human Rights Tribunal decision to the courts – a move he says will further injure the temporary foreign workers.

“These workers have suffered enough - SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin should do the right thing, admit their serious mistakes and pay the workers the back pay and damages they are now owed,” Peppard said. “Forcing the workers through another lengthy judicial process to try and deny them the money they are owed would be cruel and vindictive treatment that these hard working men don’t deserve.”

“There is no justice if the cost of justice is beyond the reach of ordinary workers,” Peppard said, adding that the costs of the BC Human Rights Tribunal hearings and other hearings at the BC Labour Relations Board and Employment Standards to the BCYT and the CSWU is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For more information: Wayne Peppard, BCYT, +1604-291-9020 or cell +1778-388-0014. Mark Olsen, Labourers 1611 at +1604-432-9300 or cell +1604-341-1799. Charles Gordon, +1604-734-8001. Jim Sinclair, BC Federation of Labour, +1604-430-1421. Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress, +1613-526-7431. Or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, +1604-844-7827 or cell +1778-896-0964.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stop scapegoating immigrants for votes / Arrêtez d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes

[français en-dessous]

Montréal, December 4, 2008 -- Shortly before Québec premier Jean Charest called the provincial election, Yolande James, his Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, astounded us with the announcement that immigrants to Quebec would have to respect Québec’s “common values”. She said that immigrants to Québec must respect the fact that Québec is a secular society where men and women have equal rights, and would have to sign a declaration to this effect. Not to be sidelined, and in a pathetic attempt to prop up sagging support, ADQ head, Mario Dumont raised the ‘Quebec identity’ bogey, saying the new course in Quebec schools on ethics, religion and culture in Quebec schools was “a negation of Québécois values.” While Dumont has been roundly pilloried for this, James’s announcement has not received the same kind of attention. And if we look back in recent history, we cannot forget former PQ leader Parizeau’s “money and the ethnic vote” comment. (Photo: Yolande James, Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities)

James and Dumont show that time has changed little. That no matter the political stripe, when it comes to minority rights, politicians play politics, and are ready to sacrifice them. They pander to what they believe are the sentiments of majority voters. They scapegoat immigrants and they are deliberately blind to history. The first inhabitants of Québec (and lest we forget, ‘Québec’ is an indigenous name) are the aboriginal people. Yet there are no sensibilities to their language, culture or values, (which include higher levels of gender equality than that of the settler colonialists).

Last year, in response to Dumont’s challenges, Premier Charest established the Reasonable Accommodation commission. It was heartening to see that the xenophobic elements were in the minority. That the majority of Quebecers were not caught up with narrow definitions of identity. Unfortunately, completely negating the findings of their own commission, the Liberals have, a year later, issued the James ‘requirement’. And Dumont tried to stir up a hornet’s nest again. We said it then and we say it now – playing identity politics is a red herring and a dangerous game. It should be trashed once and for all!

Instead of having new immigrants to Quebec sign a declaration, the Quebec government should issue a promise to all in Quebec -- new arrivals, as well as those who have been here longer, and the indigenous people -- that all rights will be protected, there will be no racial profiling, that equivalences for education and professional experience will be processed without delay, that housing is available to all irrespective of race and income, that minority youth will not be discriminated in employment in public and private sectors, that there will be no distinctions based on race, gender, ethnicity and religion, and government will work affirmatively in this direction. In essence, that Quebec will be a society based on justice and equity. Some examples of these affirmations would be the provision of more free French classes, reduced waiting periods for newcomers to access healthcare in the same way as other Quebecers.

We at the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, providing support, services and advocacy for South Asian women and their families in the Greater Montreal area for the past 27 years, would like to warn all parties about the irresponsible and dangerous game they play when one group in a population is targeted. History is full of examples of the consequences. Once the monster it out of the bottle it’s hard to push it back in.

Info:; 514-528-8812 x 103

Sommaire du Communiqué de presse

Arrêtez d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes

Les partis politiques continuent d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour influencer les votes. Les libéraux du premier ministre Charest ont annoncé, peu avant le déclenchement de la campagne électorale, que les immigrants au Québec auront à signer une déclaration reconnaissant les valeurs du peuple Québécois. Mario Dumont, le chef de l’opposition l’ADQ, dénonce le nouveau cour dans les écoles traitant de l’éthique, la religion et de la culture québécoise comme une négation des valeurs québécoises. Et, il est impossible d’oublier la fameuse phrase de Jacques Parizeau ‘ nous avons été battus par l’argent et les votes ethniques’.

N’importe le parti politique, ils sont prêts à sacrifier les droits des minorités pour céder aux sentiments de la majorité des électeurs. Pourtant, la contribution à la destruction de la richesse des langues, des cultures et valeurs des autochtones restent toujours un oubli.

L’établissement de la Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodement reliées aux différences culturelle, le 8 février 2007, a démontré que la majorité de la population ne percevait pas l’identité québécoise d’une manière étroite et rigide. Malheureusement, les recommandations de la commission n’ont pas figuré dans les initiatives du gouvernement Charest.

En lieu de faire signer une déclaration par les immigrants, le gouvernement du Québec a besoin de promettre aux nouveaux immigrants, aux immigrants qui sont établis depuis longtemps et aux premières nations de protéger leurs droits humains, de ne pas faire du profilage ethnique, d’améliorer le processus pour obtenir des équivalences pour les études et l’expérience professionnelle, l’accès aux logements, que les jeunes des communautés culturelles puissent accéder à l’emploi dans le secteur privé et public sans discrimination et d’offrir plus de cours de français et de réduire le temps d’attente pour l’accès aux services de santé.

Le centre communautaire des femmes sud-asiatiques qui existe depuis plus de 27 ans offre des services d’aide et de soutien aux nouveaux immigrants et réfugiées. Nous soulignons que c’est irresponsable et dangereux à tous les partis politiques d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes. Les conséquences sont désastreuses.

Centre South Asian
communautaire des Women’s
femmes Community
sud-asiatiques Centre

Info:; 514-528-8812 x 103

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Vancouver: Canada Line’s foreign workers faced discrimination, says tribunal

By Carlito Pablo (Georgia Straight)

Publish Date: December 3, 2008

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that temporary foreign workers who helped build the underground tunnel in Vancouver for the Canada Line were discriminated against by their employers. (Illustration by Claudio Munoz)

In a 218-page ruling issued today (December 3), a tribunal panel states that the complaint filed on behalf of the mostly Latin American workers by Local 1611 of the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union was “justified”.

“We conclude that CSWU has established that members of the Complainant Group were discriminated against by the Respondents on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry and place of origin”, the ruling states.

Named respondents in the case were SELI Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the Rome, Italy-based SELI SPA; SNC Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc., a subsidiary of SNC Lavalin Canada Inc.; and SNCP-SELI Joint Venture, which is the tie-up company responsible for the tunnel part of the Canada Line project.

As the panel summarized, there were four aspects of the complaint.

First, the Latin Americans were paid less than Europeans employed to do the same work.

Second, the workers were housed in inferior accommodations compared to most of the Europeans.

Third, the Latin Americans were a given different meal arrangement.

Lastly, the Latin Americans were given expense arrangements less favourable than those for the European workers.

The panel ordered the respondents to pay the complainants the differences between the salaries and expenses paid to them and those that were paid to their European counterparts.

The panel also ordered the respondents to pay the Latin American workers $10,000 each as “compensation for injury to dignity”.

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