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La Red

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Filipino Nurses Support Group
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Media Release


In the wake of the B.C. Nurses' Union's (BCNU) unveiling of their plan on how B.C. can competitively recruit and retain desperately needed nurses, a 60% wage hike sounds great for practicing nurses in B.C., but rings quite clearly on the unrealistic side. Crying out loudly and consistently are the often ignored and misunderstood voices of the large and growing numbers of Filipino nurses struggling to waken health and nursing institutions, like the BCNU, to their clearly difficult reality.

Instead of being allowed to enter the country as nurses and landed immigrants, especially now, during these times of a critical nursing shortage hitting hospitals across the country, the Canadian government, through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), offers zero occupational points to nurses in assessing independent immigrant applicants. The only choice for many nurses from the Philippines attempting to escape the grinding poverty in their homeland, therefore, is to come to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) as cheaply paid domestic workers.

After at least two years of not practicing nursing, they become de-skilled. Their needed nursing skills and education become a complete waste in Canadian society during a time they are needed the most. Filipino nurses become legislated into poverty and debt by the Canadian government.

BCNU President, Ivory Warner, explained that it's high time that nurses' work be truly valued and respected, when they publicly announced the union's bargaining demand to increase nurses' wages from $26.50 to $42 per hour.

"What about valuing and respecting nurses' work equally?" questions Joyce Lovitos, a nurse from the Philippines who came to Canada in 1998 and member of the Filipino Nurses Support Group (FNSG). Hoping to practice nursing here, she came to Canada under the LCP. She did not realize however, that a live-in caregiver was a glossed-up term for a minimum wage domestic worker who scrubs the toilets, mops the floors, and looks after the children and elderly of privileged Canadian families who could afford to have a live-in nanny.

"There are so many Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses already here and fully qualified to practice nursing in B.C., yet who are held back by immigration and accreditation barriers from working as nurses. In fact, Filipino nurses are at the top of the list when it comes to foreign-trained nurses successfully obtaining their registration to practice nursing in B.C. based on RNABC [Registered Nurses Association of B.C.] requirements" states Lovitos. "Are they saying that the contribution of qualified foreign-trained nurses are considered less valuable? Or are we just less desirable as professionals in Canada?" she continues. A pool of highly-skilled, yet low-paid health workers has been created through the Canadian government's LCP. Once the nurses complete their temporary work contract as domestic workers and obtain their landed immigrant status, many become home support workers, nursing aides, or continue to do domestic work, because of the many barriers that prevent them from practicing nursing here. Their presence in fact, cheapens the nursing profession by driving down the wages of Canadian nurses and health workers.

"It's a formula for the privatization of Canada's health care system. Highly-skilled and highly-educated immigrants, mostly from the Third World, are segregated as sources of cheap labour for Canada", states Leah Diana, a registered nurse in B.C. and member of FNSG. "With BCNU's recent announcement of their demand to increase nurses' wages to $42 per hour, can this really be achieved when qualified foreign-trained nurses continue to make $7.50 an hour in private homes and home care agencies?" she continues.

BCNU's position only promotes racist assumptions about the qualifications of foreign-trained nurses, further dividing and segregating the nursing workforce, and pitting Canadian nurses against foreign-trained nurses.

"The struggle of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses is a legitimate struggle for recognition and equality as immigrants and women working in Canada. Government and nursing institutions should commit to support the struggle of Filipino nurses as one of the concrete steps they can take to help alleviate the nursing shortage and improve health care", states Sheila Farrales, registered nurse in B.C., also a member of FNSG.

For more information, call Leah or Sheila at (604) 215-1103.
Celebrating a Decade of Struggle
Philippine Women Centre of B.C.
ph/fax: (604) 215-1103

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