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Campaigners warn migrants in low-paid jobs being exploited

Published 26/11/2015

Almost half of those surveyed are paid less than the minimum wage of 8.65 euro
Almost half of those surveyed are paid less than the minimum wage of 8.65 euro

Migrant workers in low-paid service jobs are facing shocking exploitation, campaigners have warned.

A survey of those employed in restaurants, security, home care and domestic work found that discrimination is rife, with people putting up with precarious conditions, widespread breaches of employment law and chronic underpayment.

The Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) said almost half of those spoken to are paid less than the minimum wage of 8.65 euro an hour and live on less than 300 euro a week.

Grainne O'Toole, a workplace rights co-ordinator with the group, said unscrupulous employers are stealing from vulnerable workers.

"The issues that emerged in this research range from severe exploitation and wage theft to discrimination and lack of progression," she said.

"One of the most interesting findings is that most migrant workers are fully aware of their rights but do not feel empowered to challenge their employers when breaches occur.

"We must ensure that migrant workers are facilitated to access justice and end this culture of impunity for exploitative employers."

The MRCI surveyed 104 workers from November 2014 to March 2015 and followed up its study with three focus groups to examine key issues in more detail. It also analysed 10 years of data from its own case files.

The organisation said immigrants make up 12.47% of Ireland's population - 578,000 people - and since 2001 more than 90,000 have become Irish citizens.

It noted the top five nationalities surveyed were from Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, China and India, with the vast majority aged between 25 and 44.

It also said more than half were long-term residents or had Irish citizenship.

The campaigners said almost two-thirds of migrants were required to work extra hours without pay, almost half had no contract and a quarter do not get a payslip.

It also found 82% did not get a pay rise in the last year and got no extra pay for working on a Sunday.

A review of 48 employment cases taken to authorities over breaches of labour law from 2006 to date revealed more than 1.1 million euro was awarded to workers but only 295,677 euro was paid.

Ms O'Toole said: "There are no penalties against employers who have withheld wages or denied workers the benefits rightfully owed to an employee. This is wage theft and needs to be addressed head on."

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