Who cares for the cargivers

[first pubilshed in a cook ‘zine “from farm to fork” by  le frigo vert collective circa 2009 http://www.lefrigovert.com/ More recent info on canadian migrant workers can be found here http://interparesfundraising.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/international-migrants-day/#%5D

Part nanny, personal care attendant, health care worker, maid and cook, we can’t forget aboutdomestic workers when we talk about food and health. The majority of domestic workers arewomen, from the Philippines, but also from Caribbean countries who enter Canada through theLive-in Caregivers Program. And though they work tirelessly to feed and care for their employers,they often have little access to food or care themselves.

Coming to Canada because of conditions ofpoverty in their homeland, created by programsof global capitalism, women often leave behindtheir own families to come and take care ofsomeone else’s here in Canada, all for the hopesof being able to send home money, andpotentially, eventually being able to move herewith their families.

One of the biggest difficulties for Filipinaworkers entering Canada through the LCP isthat of immediate forced integration.“With children,” says Evelyn Calugay, a memberof Pinay, a Montreal-based Filipino women’sorganization that focuses particularly onworking to organize and empower Filipinodomestic workers, “ it’s recognized thatintegration should be done gradually rather thanabruptly, but workers are expected to integrateimmediately. It has a huge effect on yourphysiological system to be immediately forcedto eat an entirely different diet.”

Generally, when they do shopping for theiremployers, they shop in places that don’t carrythe type of food they are used to, so they areonly able to access their own food on their dayoff, and some aren’t even allowed to bring theirown food back if, for example, doing so wouldviolate a dietary mandate (such as kosher law).Room and board is supposed to be part of thedeal for domestic workers, but many are deniedaccess to their employers food.

Employers will keep track,” says Calugay, “They will look in the fridge and ask about every morsel that is missing”. Calugay says some members of PINAY admit that they live on bread and butter, while others admit to keeping

food under their bed.

But often, food is the least of their worries.The wages are low and although on paper, thesewomen are entitled to days off and privaterooms, in practice, they rarely have privacy andare often on call 24-7. They receive no benefitsand in Quebec, are not even covered by CSST(Quebec’s workers comp), which means thatthough they take care of other people’s health,they have no resources to take care of theirown. Indeed, many who become injured, ill orpregnant while in the LCP find themselves firedfrom their jobs thereby losing their workpermits and being at risk of deportation.When asked to describe the treatment oflive-in caregivers over all, Evelyn said they aretreated as “disposable objects; not human


We are hailed as ‘modern-day heroes,’ butin fact, we are ‘modern-day slaves’,” said YolynValenzuela, of Siklab, a Filipino migrant workersgroup, in a recent speech about the LCPPeople in the LCP program can, after working24/36 months, apply for landed immigrantstatus, but the criteria are so restrictive andthe conditions so harsh few make it that far.A main barrier to this being that as soon as adomestic worker changes employment forwhatever reason, (be she fired, fall ill or leave,even if she leaves an abusive or dangerousenvironment) she must apply for a new workpermit. Though permits can be issued withinweeks, it often takes upwards of 6 months, and,in some cases, over a year.In the meantime, mostwomen find work, but without a valid workpermit, they not only have no legal rights butbecause these jobs are not documented, theirtime is not counted towards requirements ofthe program. Simple math shows that if the bureaucratic wheels turn too slowly, the workerwill never make the 24/36 month requirement,and will be deported..

Calugay describes this as “…a cycle [predicatedon] survival of the fittest”

Unbelievably, these conditions are better thanthey were. In the past, workers would have toreapply for permits periodically even if theyremained with the same employer. A long foughtcampaign demanding that LCP workers begranted a work permit for the full 3 years andnot be tied to a specific employer had a partialvictory: 3 year permits are now issued. The factthat the permits remain tied to a particularemployer, however, renders this victorysomewhat hollow in that most workers changeemployers throughout this 3 year period andthen are stuck with the problem of not beingable to document work until their newpaperwork (permit) has come through.LCP workers in Quebec won a moresubstantial victory through the Quebec HumanRights Commission recently. Currently,domestic workers in Quebec are not coveredby CSST (Worker’s Compensation in Quebec).A report done by McGill professor and co-founder of the Montreal Immigrant WorkersCentre, Jill Hanley, found that 30% of domesticworkers experience a job-related injury. In November of 2008, the Quebec Human RightsCommission ruled that this exclusion wasdiscriminatory on the basis of gender, ethnicityand social status. Of course, the ruling is onlythe first step and to date it is unknown howthe CSST will interpret and manifest this newstandard. [having left the jurisdiction shortly after writing this, i have no idea how this has affected the terrain]

[another update: Montreal Immigrant Worker’s Centre http://iwc-cti.ca/ launched an association of temp agency workers in order to fight and organize for themselves for better work conditions and dignity…and struggle for basic things that we all take advantage of… such as minimum wage, holiday pay, dignity and respect, and also against their own injust situations of fighting for status and against deportations..The struggle continues

  • Amanda Dorter is a frigo collective member

For more info or to stand in solidarity with workers in the Livein Caregivers Program

check out the Pinay website at http://pinayquebec.blogspot.com/


Once-rejected Bartley Green Councilor John Lines to be appointe Brum Lord Mayor on Tues. May 22nd

Though this post is mostly to not lose track of the below article, you can check out this facebook group which has links to Lines’ racist, homophobic and violence past, as well as the petition against his impending Lord Mayorship.

The following text was taken from a post on The Chamberlain Files that for some reason was taken down, yet cached here…

The text is below, and corroborated by this article, saying that “Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors overwhelmingly refused to accept [the appointment of John Lines as Lord Mayor in 2001 was]…the first time in more than a century that a party’s nomination of Lord Mayor has been rejected.”


“So near yet so far for ‘Lord Mayor John Lines’”  – 11/01/2012 by Paul Dale

“Never say never in politics. Eleven years after suffering the humiliation of being told he was not after all going to be Lord Mayor of Birmingham, John Lines may finally be on course to inherit the glittering office.

“The combative Tory city councillor should have been given the job in 2001, but Labour and Liberal Democrat members joined forces and threw out the nomination, claiming that Coun Lines was too divisive and right wing for a multi-cultural city like Bimingham.

“Eleven years later, the Liberal Democrats have performed a U-turn and decided that Coun Lines is exactly the sort of chap to become First Citizen. The fact that the Lib Dems are running the council in partnership with the Conservatives and it is the Tory turn to nominate the Lord Mayor may have something to do with this.

“And in any case, some Lib Dems have come to have a grudging respect for Coun Lines’s eight-year stint as cabinet member for housing and admire the way he has turned around a failing department. They also love the way he routinely delivers a verbal bashing to hapless opposition councillors who dare to question publicly his performance.

“This, at least, is the official coalition line. Bubbling away beneath the surface, however, there remains unease among a few Liberal Democrat councillors and rather more outright hostility in the opposition Labour group.

“Most Labour councillors are finding it difficult to forget about the spot of difficulty Coun Lines found himself in four years ago after referring to asylum seekers as “scumbags” and “scallywags”. The remarks were made in the context of an interview to a magazine and meant to underline Coun Lines’s support for British armed forces who, he believed, had to wait at the bottom of the queue for housing while asylum seekers were given preferential treatment.

“A complaint was made to the Standards Board for England, but the board cleared Coun Lines of breaking the councillors’ code of conduct and ruled that he had a right to freedom of speech and to be abusive as long as he stayed within the law.

“I took soundings in the tea room at this week’s full city council meeting and discovered scarcely disguised anger among Labour members. The 56-strong group is yet to decide formally whether to back the nomination of Coun Lines and is unlikely to do so until just before the February council meeting, when he is due to be pronounced Lord Mayor-elect.

“There is a feeling, with the way news of Lines’s prospective elevation leaked out last week, that Labour is being bounced into backing the nomination on the grounds that it is the Conservative turn to take the mayoralty in 2012-13 and they must be allowed to select who they want. This was exactly the argument used in 2001, when it was again the Conservative turn, but that didn’t prevent the council voting to reject Coun Lines on that occasion.

“One senior Labour councillor spoke of the “unexpected and unwelcome news” of Coun Lines’s prospective nomination and added that the group appeared completely split over the matter, although there was a groundswell of opposition. The matter will be considered at a special Labour group meeting on Jan 28, just over a week before the council meets to choose a Lord Mayor-elect on February 8, where an attemtp to reach a collective decision will be made.

“The Labour group leadership may wish, possibly with a heavy heart, to support or at least not to oppose Coun Lines’s nomination. Pragmatic grounds are being mentioned, with a desire to avoid the festering ill feeling that marked 2001 when the Conservatives refused to nominate an alternative to Coun Lines and the Lord Mayoralty went instead to Liberal Democrat Jim Whorwood.

“Phrases such as “we have all moved on” since 2001 and “let’s draw a line under this” are being used in an attempt to rally the troops. There is also a feeling that it would be difficult to justify opposing the nomination for Lord Mayor of someone with 30 years unbroken council service and who, crucially, can boast that he is the first person to oversee the building of new council houses in Birmingham for some 25 years.

“He has enjoyed the benefits of Prudential Borrowing, which was not available until the very end of Labour’s council rule in late 2003, and this has enabled hundreds of millions of pounds to be invested in modernising decaying council housing stock. Birmingham’s local authority housing now meets the Decent Homes Standard, which was certainly not the case in 2004.

“Add to that Coun Lines’s Homes for Heroes initiative, securing accommodation for members of the armed forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is easier to understand why the official Labour stance could be one of, if not outright support,  non-opposition to the mayoral nomination.

“It remains far from clear, however, whether Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore will succeed in securing a binding decision among his members to vote for Coun Lines as Lord Mayor. A number of backbenchers I spoke to said they wanted a free vote on the issue and would consider rebelling if whipped to support Coun Lines.

“Of course, if the coalition wants Coun Lines to have the job, which it does, enough votes exist to force it through since the Tory-Lib Dem partnership still enjoys an overall majority of eight in the chamber. The most likely scenario is that Labour councillors opposed to the nomination, and perhaps a few Liberal Democrats, will absent themselves from the council chamber when the vote to nominate the Lord Mayor is taken, and as this happens at an informal meeting anyway it will be possible for the whips to turn a blind eye.

“It is impossible to be certain now, though, about what will happen when the 2012-13 Lord Mayor is formally elected at the annual council meeting at the end of May. This will be the first session of the new council following the elections on May 3, and it is reasonable to suppose that Labour will have a majority of seats and clear control of the city council.

“Councillor Lines can be forgiven if he feels unusually nervous during the two week period between the elections and the annual meeting. Nothing is certain in politics, not even for Lord Mayor-elects.”