Press Centre

SIPTU and MRCI launch film highlighting poor working conditions of migrant workers

Still from Food for Thought

MEDIA RELEASE 21.01.2013

SIPTU and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) launched a short social justice film documenting the experiences of low wage migrant restaurant workers today in Liberty Hall, Dublin.

Food for Thought is informed by research carried out by the MRCI in 2012 with 120 migrant restaurant workers which identified non-compliance and exploitation as an on-going concern in the sector.

MRCI spokesperson, Helen Lowry, said: “This film shares migrant worker experiences of poor working conditions, exploitation and the struggle to live and work with dignity. It weaves together workplace experiences and interviews with trade unionists, economists and worker leaders portraying a powerful message about precarious low wage work in recession Ireland”.

SIPTU Services Division Organiser, John King, said: “Non-compliance with basic employment law, such as the national minimum wage, is a chronic problem for low wage workers today. The National Employment Rights Authority’s (NERA) most recent report, on the back of almost one thousand inspections, found only a 51% compliance rate with the National Minimum Wage”.

He added: “There has never been a greater need to secure Joint Labour Committee agreements to uphold standards and to ensure that workers get reasonable reward for their efforts in low wage sectors”.

Speaking at the launch, worker leader and chef, Enamur Chowdhury, said: “In the past I suffered exploitation at the hands of my employer. I refuse to stand by and let that happen to other workers. The film shares our stories but is also a message from good employers that it is possible to uphold the law and still run a profitable business. It also highlights some of the changes needed such as the right of work permit holders to change jobs more freely”.

Helen Lowry added: “Every day in the centre we are seeing the impact of the recession on the lives of low wage migrant workers on a continuum of being treated slightly less favourably to situations of extreme exploitation. Non-compliance is bad for the economy; it hurts workers and undermines decent employers. We would like to see ethical consumption take root amongst Irish consumers and we believe there is an appetite for change”.

Workers, activists and organisers from MRCI and the trade union movement held a workshop to discuss employment rights issues following the screening.

Notes for Editors:

To view the short film Food for Thoughthttp://vimeo.com/migrantrightscentre/food

MRCI Restaurant Worker Survey, 2012

In 2012 MRCI carried out interviews with approximately 120 migrant workers employed in the restaurant sector and found that non-compliance with employment law and exploitation were still a reality for many workers.

o    Almost 40% do not receive annual leave

o    49% work 6 or more days per week

o    82% are not paid overtime rates

o    88% do not earn extra pay for Sunday work

o    64% are not compensated for working bank holidays

o    80% have no contract of employment with terms and conditions of work