First TFW-Led Conference: Big Success!

  • Page Views 1496
  • I was proud to be part of the Migrante BC-led conference at the Unifor Hall in New Westminster last Dec 3-4. Excellent speakers and panelists, very good turnout from progressive unions and community groups, great food (as usual!), useful workshop sessions, nice mix  of young and veteran activists and inspiring themes  of forging solidarity among workers using education, mobilization and organization.

    The Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Conference carried the theme of “Building and Strengthening Workers Solidarity.”  It brought together various unions, community groups, community advocates, migrant youth, veteran activists and men and women migrant workers.

    The event itself was hugely significant firstly, because it was organized and led by migrant workers and migrant organizers. It echoed the motto of the International Migrants Alliance, the first-ever global alliance of migrants and their families, that declared, quite powerfully and with pride, that “for too long, others have spoken on our behalf, now we speak for ourselves.”

    Secondly, because the Conference happened at a time when anti-migrant sentiments are on the rise world-wide, e.g. the Brexit vote in the UK , the Trump election in the United States, and anti-migrant rhetoric of  Marie Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front leader.  And right here in Canada, the recent review of the TFW Program excluded many migrant workers’ voices and issued recommendations that  would make it easier for employers to hire TFWs but kept silent on the situation and demands for landed status by migrant workers.

    Prof Ethel Tungohan, Political Science professor at York University and a community activist, declared in her keynote address that 2016 was a horrible year for migrant workers, but she also delivered the message of hope from the  organized mass movements of migrant workers, of ordinary people. “Let’s remember that migrant workers’ active and concerted campaigning is the reason policy improvements were given in the first place. These improvements were never given to us out of the goodness of the government’s hearts. These were given because we fought for them.”

    While most discourse on TFWP just covers the commodification of workers in Canada, the conference panel  not only reviewed the racist treatment of migrants in Canadian history and the shift from pathways to citizenship to the recruitment of guest workers,  but also  tackled the Philippine government’s Labour Export Policy that pushes  Filipino workers out of the country to work in the global North.  Dr. Chandu Claver summed it with “Migration should be a choice, not a necessity.”   Migrant workers brought this point home so clearly when former caregiver Avelina Vasquez, Cholo Sales, former worker at Denny’s Restaurant, caregiver  Hessed Torres,  Mildred German, child of a migrant worker, and Gabriel Allahdua, farm worker from the Carribean all told their  heart-wrenching stories of struggle and hope and how the human spirit survives in the face of adversity.

    On the second day, the multi-generational  activists and trade union leaders  inspired the audience, especially the youth, with  their personal experiences and  hard learned lessons in the struggle ,without losing the sense of  humour which is necessary to have always!  They were Elsie Dean, community and peace activist in her 90s, Marion Pollack, a retired  union activist with the Postal Workers Union and Harsha Walia, social justice activist from No One Is Illegal and a mother.

    Grassroots organizing in the local workplace, in communities and neighbourhoods, in countries in the North and the source countries in the South meant using the tools of educating, mobilizing and organizing in inter-connected ways. The young workers made a good impression with their work in organizing: Kari Michaels from BCGEU, Mildred German from Migrante BC Youth, Marikit Saturay from AnakBayan Europe, and Einstein Recedes from AnakBayan Philippines.

    Labour leaders Joey Hartman, President of Vancouver and District Labour Council (VDLC) , Jennifer Whiteside of the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) , and Mark Olsen of the Labourers’ International Union (LiUNA)  spoke very strongly about the current labour movement and the fight for all workers’ rights.  The key words raised were partnerships, as “peers, as allies” and while all agreed that unions and migrant workers have a long way to go to achieve “decent work and social protection for all workers”, the solidarity is there and continues to expand and strengthened in the process of struggle.  The history of the Canadian labour movement has not always been stellar with its scapegoating of migrant workers in its past but the labour unions at this conference emphatically said that they would make sure that they were “on the right side of history at this time. “

    The conference was about workers coming together. Dr. Tungohan captured this with her words: “we really need to come together, to cast aside political and personal differences, and see the importance of working towards justice for migrants, justice for workers, and justice for people. The people united will never be defeated/ Ang tao, ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban.

    Tinig Migrante by E. Maestro

    Share

    New Posts Recently publish post More

    • 24 April 2018
      24 hours ago No comment

      New web series sheds light on Pinoy millennials’ lives

      ABS-CBN’s online streaming and video-on-demand content platform, iWant TV, is releasing a new and original web series by award-winning director Pam Reyes titled “#Adulting,” a coming-of-age, light drama-comedy that follows four young Filipina women from different colleges who are about to leave the comforts of their university life for ...

    • 23 April 2018
      2 days ago No comment

      Academic releases new book Bayanihan and Belonging: Filipinos and Religion in Canada

      Professor Alison Marshall of the Brandon University in Manitoba has a new book. The book titled Bayanihan and Belonging: Filipinos and Religion in Canada “seeks to understand the link between Filipino migrant settlement experiences in rural and urban Canada, and religion,” according to an abstract The book was published ...

    • 23 April 2018
      2 days ago No comment

      Dennis and Jennyln

      Dennis Trillo taped some advanced episodes of “The One That Got Away” before he left for his GMA Pinoy TV shows. “We’re happy that the show is gaining more regular viewers,” he says. “The story is also getting to be more and more intriguing with the introduction of more ...

    • 23 April 2018
      2 days ago No comment

      Megan and Mikael

      Megan Young’s relationship with Mikael Daez has been going strong for seven years now. What’s their secret? “I think it’s because we always keep our communication lines open,” she says. “When he does something na hindi ko nagustuhan, I’m not afraid to approach him and tell him about it. ...

    • 23 April 2018
      2 days ago No comment

      Carlo and Angelica

      Carlo Aquino shared the progress of his upcoming movie with Angelica Panganiban. The actor relayed they just had the pitching with Star Cinema. “Baka mag Direk Dan (Villegas) kami. Kung sakali, ito ‘yung first major [project] ko with Direk Dan kasi ‘yung una ko siyang nakatrabaho is with Gerald ...

    %d bloggers like this: