by Louise Solomita
Starting from May 1, all home caregivers who live with their employees
will be subject to the same standards as other workers, said André
Perrault, from the Commission des Normes du Travail (CNT). These standards
will include a minimum-wage salary and the reduction of the standard work
week from 49 hours to 40 hours. Perrault called these changes a
question of respect.
Louise Dionne, a representative from the Association des Aides Familiales
du Québec (AAFQ), pointed out that the reforms, Bill 143, while
admirable in theory, would not guarantee change.
Most live-in caregivers wont see their rights respected as
of May 1, she said. The CNT certainly wont go door to
door to make sure employers are adhering to the law. Dionne compared
the introduction of the labour reforms to climbing the first rung of a
Michel Charron, from Immigration Quebec, conceded to certain shortcomings
in the program, during which the workers must adapt to a new life, work
full-time and learn French within a limited period of time. Once
[the live-in caregivers] get here, Im not sure we necessarily have
the resources to follow-up on their progress, he said.
Cynthia Palmaria was from PINAY, an organization representing Philipino
women in Quebec. She described what befalls some women once they begin
their work in Quebec under the auspices of the program, such as the example
of a woman who was fired because she was pregnant, making it difficult
for her to complete the requisite 24 months of employment.
This is only a symbolic victory, Palmaria said about the
labour reforms. While we have the definition of these rights on
paper, the reality with the employers is different.
Perrault said that live-in caregivers do not take advantage of the CNTs
mechanisms to receive and act upon complaints. However, members of the
audience said it wasnt always easy for the caregivers to gather
their courage to do so, and that they sometimes had trouble expressing
themselves in English or French.
Charron from Immigration Quebec responded that many of these women desperately
want to come to Canada, and that this program offers them that chance.
Were aware that there are problems, and were looking
Marie-Aude Couillard Lapointe, a student of the SCPA and one of the organizers of the panel, was happy with the discussion. She was especially pleased that the government representatives were open to discussion and challenges.