Filipino Workers forging unity in its First Filipino Workers Conference in Toronto, Canada
By Ben Corpuz, Co-chair Filipino Workers Network
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
April 15, 2016
“Congrats to sisters and brothers of Filipino Workers Network for their first, incredibly successful, conference of Filipino Workers across the GTA! Mabuhay! Rowena Santos, participant
“…this will take the Network to a whole new level of activism and capacity to play a leading role in the labour movement in greater Toronto.” John Cartwright, President, Toronto & York Region Labour Council
They came early with anticipation of the one day conference agenda. It is the first gathering of workers of Filipino origin. It is remarkable to meet more than a hundred Filipino-Canadian workers from across the Greater Toronto Area (including some from London, Brampton, Vaughan, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Ajax, and Markham) who chose to attend the April 9, 2016 inaugural conference of the Filipino Workers Network last Saturday, April 9, 2016 at the United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Maria Castaneda’s message is loud and clear. The workers through a united and strong labour union is leading force for change. Without the workers’ active involvement in unions, the work of defending, protecting and advancing the rights and freedoms of peoples with not be effective. It is extremely important to continue to organize, educate and mobilize the workers and to encourage them to form unions to fight for the welfare and rights of the workers and peoples. “Only by joining the unions that workers will be able to forge a stronger power to lobby and take an action to change the situations in the workplace and policies governing descent work, benefits and rights.”
The one day conference was a big step for the Filipino Workers Network considering that it was formed 20 months ago, July 2014. The network aims to bring together the Filipino Canadian workers to: discuss key issues within the community relating to labour like living wage, good jobs, workplace and workers’ rights; engage union members and help mobilize to improve labour law and Employment Standards; create alliances around goals of social and economic justice; and, give people confidence to be more active in their union, including taking leadership.
The inspiring message of Maria Castaneda, the informative presentation of Rick Esguerra, the educational workshops led by seasoned union leaders and trained facilitators from the ranks of the Filipino Workers Network have brought a greater awareness to labour matters and will hopefully bring a higher degree of involvement and union activism.
Workers of Filipino origin impact the landscape of the Canadian labour movement. Six thousand Filipinos leave the Philippines daily due to poverty, lack of jobs, and lack of opportunity. Philippines is one of the top 5 sources of temporary foreign workers of Canada. There is an estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Canada, with twenty percent of it resides in Toronto. It is in this light that the Filipino Workers Network is organizing and building the capacity of the Filipino workers here in Toronto and educate them on workers’ rights, wages, benefits, employment standards, labour unions and other labour related issues.
The one-day conference gave an opportunity to learn and discuss about Workers’ Rights – Changing Workplace Review, Health and Safety in the Workplace, Collective Bargaining & Grievance, Taking Action on Environment and, Migrant Workers and the unions.
Members from these local unions and organizations participated: SEIU Healthcare, Unite Here Local 75, United Steelworkers USW local 1998, OCEU (Ontario Compensation Union /CUPE Local 1750 (WSIB), USW Toronto Council, USW Region, COPE Local 343, LIUNA3000, CUPE 2191, CUPE Local 416, UFCW, OPSEU, CUPE 2316, CUPE 79, CUPE 1281, Workers United, Canadian Union of Postal Workers-Scarborough, OECTA, USW 5296, USW3950, UNIFOR 252, Unifor 673, Unifor 1643 and workers from Luminus Financial. These local unions represents more than hundreds of thousands across Canada and USA.
Community members from AnakBayan Toronto, Caregivers Action, CATIE, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement, Filipino Canadian Parents Association in Catholic Education, Gabriela, CASJ- Community Alliance For Social Justice, International Council for Human Rights in the Philippines, iWWorkers, Migrante Canada, Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture, and, Workers Action Centre, PIDC, Philippine Independence Day Council, PIDC, Gawad-Kalinga, Parkdale Tenants Association and other individual workers in the community. Various media outlets were also in attendance and members of the Philippine Press Club of Ontario (PPCO).
Carlos Bulosan Theatre artists graced the event with a performance of selected Carlos Bulosan’s poems. Carlos Bulosan Theatre – also known as ‘CBT’ – is a Toronto-based independent theatre company committed to creating innovative work that reflects a vibrant, new generation of Filipino-Canadian artists.
The event was made possible by the Toronto & York Labour Council with support and sponsorship from the SEIU Healthcare, Unite Here Local 75, United Steelworkers USW local 1998, OCEU (Ontario Compensation Union /CUPE Local 1750 (WSIB), USW Toronto Council, USW Region and Luminus Financial.
The participants affirmed with resounding “YES” echoing in the United Steelworkers hall as each statement was read and explained by Ben S. Corpuz, Co- Chair of the Filipino Workers Network. A fitting punctuation for the event.
FILIPINO WORKERS NETWORK POSITION STATEMENTS
Presented and accepted at the First Filipino Workers Conference,
April 9, 2016, 25 Cecil St. Toronto Ontario, Canada
Thousands of Filipinos leave the Philippines daily to go to countries like Canada because of worsening economic and political situation in the Philippines. Canada is now home to us and we share in Canada’s concern that we are losing good jobs, losing public utilities due to privatization and losing our rights and freedoms as a people. We are deeply concerned about poverty and injustices happening around us, about issues that affect the working families and the community. We fear for the uncertain future of our families, our children and our children’s children. As Filipino Workers Network, we join in making a better Canada, a Canada that cares about its people. A Canada that protect the rights of workers and upholds the rights and freedoms of its people.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS, LIVING WAGE AND GOOD JOBS
All workers are governed by the employment standard act. It defines the standards applied to all workers to afford them decent life and meet the basic needs of the workers and their families. ESA is the only protection for non-unionized workers. As Filipino Workers Network we are committed in the fight to improve workers’ rights. We strongly support the changes to Employment Laws that will stave off poverty, benefits workers and lay the foundation for the next generation of workers. We affirm our support to demand
· equal pay for workers regardless of their status as full-time, part-time or temporary, their age, gender, student status or area of work;
· an end to the misclassification of workers as self-employed, instead of workers;
· adequate hours;
· fair scheduling with proper advance notice;
· at least 7 paid sick days;
· meaningful regulation of temp agencies;
· proactive enforcement of the laws using public sector employees;
· measures to make it easier for workers to join – and keep – their unions; and
· a legislated, indexed minimum wage.
· fix EI program
PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES
We join and support the campaign to keep our public utilities public. Public utilities are ours. Selling it to private individuals and companies takes away our power as a people to decide and control these public utilities. By losing control, we lost the power to offer good services at reasonable cost to the people particularly the vulnerable ones. As Filipino-Canadians we much ensure that any action by the government to take away our ownership of our public utilities must be opposed. We
· Affirm the commitment to defeat privatization of public assets in Toronto, including the Parking Authority and the Toronto Community Housing Authority, as well as Toronto Hydro.
· Support efforts at Toronto City Hall to strengthen defense of public assets, including educating union members and the public to prepare them for the propaganda campaign CLIMATE CHANGE
There are no jobs if there is no planet Earth. We all know that our climate is affecting our very life. Our misuse and abuse of our environment threatens the whole world. Sometimes our jobs are directly destroying our planet. As Filipino-Canadians we are committed to protecting our environment and ensure that workers are protected when their jobs are being eliminated or changed due to transitioning to green jobs. This includes voice in decision-making, retraining, income bridging and unemployment benefits, and community investment for good green jobs. We must focus on making a better Canada, a caring Canada that protects the environment.
We condemn racism. We remember the Filipino community’s struggle in 1993 when Filipino youth were banned from the Scarborough Town Centre because they are Filipinos. We remember the mauling and killing of Mao Jomar Lanot in Vancouver. We remember the hate graffiti and physical violence against 25 Filipino youth at Vancouver Technical Secondary School in 1999. We remember Jeffrey Reodica who was shot by the police in 2004. We remember the racial profiling of young Filipinos in Montreal.
We, strongly criticize the use of racism and xenophobia to divide the community and stir them away from the real issues in the community. We must focus on making a better Canada. A Canada that embraces diversity, respects human rights and fights for social justice. A Canada that cares about its people and the world.
TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS / MIGRANT WORKERS
We strongly support the demand to permanent resident status for all temporary workers currently working in Canada. We are committed to uphold respect and dignity and better living and working conditions for all migrant workers. This will provide them with some leverage to negotiate their wages and working conditions which in turn will ensure a healthier job market that will provide better wages and working conditions for all workers in Canada.
We strongly criticize Canada’s government for continuing to use the temporary foreign workers program to create second class workers. Migrant workers are placed in vulnerable position, open to further exploitation and abuse, and with little to no bargaining power. The effects to Canadian workers are also detrimental, as the reliance on cheap, flexible foreign labour pushes the overall average wages lower and fails to resolve Canada’s high unemployment and lack of skills training.
Migrant workers' rights are human rights! Equal rights for all workers!
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