Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 27              August 10 - 16, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Despite critical nursing shortage
Filipino Health Workers in Canada May Lose Jobs 

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Canada fear that the Canadian government’s plan to hire a company for hospital housekeeping services would force as many as 1,500 hospital employees, most of them Filipinos, out of their jobs. 


Contracting out

According to SIKLAB, an overseas Filipino workers’ organization based in British Columbia (BC), about 850 to 1,500 Hospital Employees’ Union members would reportedly lose their jobs if the services are contracted out.

In a statement last week, SIKLAB revealed the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s recent move to contract out housekeeping services to Aramark Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of a United States-based company.

In a statement, SIKLAB said “this latest attack on workers is another indication of the widening privatization drive of the Canadian healthcare system.”

The group claimed that contracting out victimizes immigrant workers, especially Filipinos¾who comprise a big chunk of the immigrants who work in Canada as cheap laborers and have struggled for a more stable employment for years now¾are often among the first ones to be laid off. 

Ana Cagas of SIKLAB asserted that this condition shows the “deepening economic segregation of the Filipino community.” “Not only are they losing jobs critical to their families’ very survival, the community will also suffer under a privatized and less accessible health care system,” she said. 

Sean Parlan, also of SIKLAB, reported that in the past month, laundry workers, care aides and housekeepers have been the victims of the privatization drive that is part of globalization.

Parlan noted that privatization “results in more profit for private companies as they hire new workers for less wages and little or no benefits.”

“As a main source of cheap labor in Canada, Filipino workers will continue to face further exploitation under globalization,” Parlan added. 

SIKLAB vowed to continue to “educate, organize and mobilize the Filipino community and other workers to be conscious of the detrimental impacts of privatization and resist the profit-driven agenda” of globalization.” 


Meanwhile, a recent study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information highlighted the “intensification of the critical nationwide nursing shortage” in Canada.

The study shows that BC can expect a 32 percent decrease in the number of nurses while Ontario can expect 28 percent, in just three years. This is based on the current pace of nurses’ retirement at the age of 55.

The wide gap between the number of retirees and new nursing graduates entering the workforce is another factor. This year, there are only 4,900 nursing graduates in Canada compared to 10,000 in 1990.

Despite these, said the Canada-based Filipino Nurses Support Group (FNSG) in a statement, Filipinos who provide valuable nursing services are discriminated against.

“The immediate recognition of nursing education and experience which will fully value the skills of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses remains ignored, only to be discriminated against by government and nursing institutions as a viable solution to the ongoing crisis,” observed FNSG.

Canada does not acknowledge the professional skills of Filipino nurses who come into the country as immigrant workers. They are treated simply as “temporary workers who care for the children, elderly, and people with disabilities of Canadian families who can afford to pay for private, live-in care and housekeeping.”

Nurses from the Philippines seek jobs in Canada under the only practical option¾the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). Unlike those with permanent immigrant status who came to Canada in the 1960s and 1970s, Filipino nurses today under the LCP “must work as 24-hour nannies and home support workers, not as nurses.”

FNSG said that the temporary status of Filipino nurses made them vulnerable to de-skilling, exploitation, and abuse.

Even with nursing diplomas acquired in the Philippines and having years of nursing work experience, Filipino nurses find it extremely difficult to be accredited as nurses in Canada. 

According to FNSG, of over 500 Filipino nurses in BC seeking to practice nursing only about 125 work as fulltime nurses. Bulatlat.com

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