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Migrant workers to appear before Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Community work; empowerment; collective action; participation; migrants

Dublin, 10 June 2014

Today (Tuesday 10th June) the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will meet a group of migrant workers and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) to discuss measures in the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014.

The Bill aims to address gaps in the law that restrict the rights of vulnerable migrant workers and expose them to greater risk of exploitation.

Among the group is Mohammed Younis, the restaurant worker at the centre of a controversial 2013 High Court case (Hussein vs the Labour Court). The Court ruled that because Mr Younis was undocumented, his former employer did not have to pay the €92,000 in back wages Mr Younis had been awarded by the Labour Court. The ‘Younis provision’ in the Bill is intended to close the loophole which allowed Amjad Hussein to exploit Mr Younis with impunity.

Speaking ahead of the Committee meeting, Mr Younis said “I’m glad that at least my case exposed this gap, and that this Bill will allow some undocumented workers to seek compensation orders for unpaid wages from the courts. My fear is this does not go far enough. The Bill must ensure that all exploited undocumented workers can access the courts. This is the only way we will make sure no one else is treated like I was.”

Enamur Chowdry, a restaurant worker and MRCI activist, stated “There are too many gaps in the current Work Permit system, and too few options for migrant workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. People can easily become undocumented; no one wants to be in that situation. This Bill will close some of those gaps, but the Work Permit will still tie a worker to one employer. To make the system better, safer and more flexible, workers should be allowed to change employers within the job sector they have been approved for.”

Gráinne O’Toole of MRCI said “MRCI has assisted many workers to access the Undocumented Workers Scheme  and we have long campaigned for this Scheme to be put on a legal footing. We’re relieved that this Bill will finally incorporate it into Irish law, strengthening protections for workers.”

Ms O’Toole concluded “Overall we welcome the Bill and the Government’s efforts to reform a flawed system. However, certain provisions could be made even stronger; with this Bill, the  Government has a real opportunity to make the Irish labour migration system fit for purpose.

This Bill should close off any loopholes that facilitate exploitation. Ireland must ensure that there is never another case like that of Mohammed Younis.”

ENDS

NOTES

Full MRCI submission on Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014: http://www.mrci.ie/resources/publications/submissions/employment-permits-amendment-bill-2014-mrci-submission-to-joint-committee-on-jobs-enterprise-employment/

Mohammed Younis case: The High Court case Hussein v Labour Court concerned Amjad Hussein, trading as Poppadom Restaurant, challenging a decision of the Labour Court with respect to Muhammad Younis, who was awarded €92,000 for breaches of employment law. For more see http://www.mrci.ie/resources/publications/mrciupdates/seven-years-of-slavery-in-ireland-muhammads-story/ and http://humanrights.ie/immigration/irregular-migrant-workers-and-employment-rights-in-ireland/

Work Permit limitations: A worker is only allowed to work for the employer named on their work permit and their immigration status is dependent on keeping this job.