Press Centre

Seanad debate law to protect exploited workers

PRESS RELEASE: 28 November 2012

Today Senator Feargal Quinn will put forward an amendment to the Employment Permit Act 2003. This proposal will deal with the problems facing workers arising from the High Court judgement in Amjad Hussein v’s The Labour Court. The effect of this decision has been devastating for many exploited workers which found that the Employment Permit Act 2003 prevents an undocumented worker from seeking redress under labour law as the employment contract cannot be recognised.

Gráinne O’ Toole of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said, “Since the High Court ruling we have seen a growing number of exploited workers denied the right to take a case against their employer. We have also seen an increase in employers evading the payment of awards to workers they have exploited.”

James MacGuill, of MacGuill & Company Solicitors, stated “Unscrupulous employers who previously ignored the law of the land, the State’s employment rights machinery, and refused to pay awards made against them are now using the judgment as a defence to avoid paying awards. There is clear evidence that the judgment is being employed to doubly abuse the most vulnerable and prevent them from getting the help and protection they should be entitled to.’

Mohammed Younis, the worker directly affected by the High Court ruling, said “I am still fighting my case for justice. But I am here today to support all exploited workers to get their employment rights. We ask all politicians to support Senator Quinn’s proposal as this would give workers the protection they need.”

Ms O’Toole concluded that “the law as it stands gives a green light to exploitative employers. The government must take urgent action and Senator Quinn’s proposal is the answer.”

ENDS

Background Information

This case concerned Amjad Hussein, trading as Poppadom Restaurant, challenging a decision of the Labour Court with respect to Mohammad Younis, who was awarded €92,000 for breaches of employment law.

Mohammed Younis entered Ireland on a Work Permit in 2002 to work as a chef at the Poppadom Restaurant. His work permit expired in 2003. The legal responsibility for renewing the Work Permit under the Employment Permit Act 2003 rested with the employer, Amjad Hussein. The failure to renew the Permit rendered Mohammed undocumented in the State. For many years Mohammed Younis was paid well below minimum wage, 55 cent per hour. He worked extremely long hours (77 hours per week) with no day off. He was subjected to threats and severe exploitation amounting to modern day slavery.

In the High Court decision Justice Hogan found that the Employment Permits Act 2003 prevents an undocumented worker from seeking redress under labour law as the employment contract cannot be recognised.  He stated ‘there must be some concern that this legislation will produce consequences which were not foreseen or envisaged. Specifically it may not have been intended by the Oireachtas that undocumented migrant workers should be effectively deprived of the benefit of all employment legislation by virtue of his illegal status...’