Employment: Filipino nurses tell of exploitation and abuse in private care homes

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More than 120 Filipino nurses have been rescued from private nursing homes all over Britain after allegedly suffering from racism, abuse and exploitation.

Five of the nurses, all of whom are qualified to degree level, told yesterday of their "escape'' on Sunday from a home for the elderly where they were paid a third less than they should be.

The Filipino women, all in their twenties, told the TUC conference in Brighton that the privately-owned nursing home in Wiltshire had forced them to work up to 60 hours a week performing menial task despite their qualifications. The nurses were made to sign unlawful contracts, which threatened them with dismissal for divulging "secrets'', for "engaging in trade union activities'' or for "violating the customs, traditions and laws of England''.

In common with other foreign nurses who fled from homes elsewhere, their employers had promised to pay air fares but subsequently the money was deducted from their pay.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public service union Unison, said the Filipino women who worked at Swindon had been paid £11,000 a year compared with the £16,500 they would receive as nurses in the NHS. Since their arrival in Britain 15 months ago only two of the five had been allowed to gain British certification as nurses, which would give them a salary of £14,400.

The women had paid £1,500 to work in this country as nurses but found they were made to scrub walls and floors and carry rubbish, Mr Prentis said. Unison is attempting to obtain employment for the nurses at Epsom Hospital, Surrey.

Nemia Labergas, one of the five Filipinos, said 10 of their colleagues were given accommodation in a four-bedroom house five miles from the nursing home and offered bicycles to get to work. "There was only one bathroom in the house. They said that we were used to living like rats in the Philippines. We couldn't take any more."

Janice Carandang said management at the home had insisted they did their training on their days off. "They tried to take our passports away but we knew that was illegal,'' she said.

Father Claro Conde, the women's priest, said foreign nurses generally suffered discrimination in this country. "There is a nationwide exploitation of foreign nurses, not only Filipinos; Chinese and Indian nurses as well.''

Mr Prentis said their treatment was "absolutely scandalous''. He added: "This is a disgraceful way to treat highly skilled, fully qualified nurses. The NHS is crying out for their skills. Sadly this is not an isolated incident – Unison has already rescued over 120 Filipino nurses from other private nursing homes up and down the country."

TUC delegates passed a motion calling for radically improved employment rights.

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