Press Centre

Much more needed to eliminate worker exploitation in Irish Agriculture

PRESS RELEASE: 12 December 2007

Agricultural Workers Association

Agreement with Mushroom Company is Good First Step

The Agricultural Workers Association (AgWA) is encouraged by the formal signing of the Registered Employment Agreement at the Labour Court to day between Drimbawn Mushrooms and the trade union, SIPTU. The agreement, however, is only a single private registered agreement between this company and union and is not yet industry wide across the mushroom sector.

“The agreement is a step in the right direction in a long journey to end exploitation of agricultural workers in Ireland,” says Sintija Pirite, Secretary of AgWA and former mushroom worker from Latvia.  “Drimbawn Mushrooms is taking the lead on the issue by making an agreement with SIPTU, but this is only one of many other employers who have yet to sign up to this agreement. The others have seemingly declined. One needs to ask why?  It shows that there is still much work to be done.”

The Agricultural Workers Association Ltd., established May 2007 in connection with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, is a membership group of agricultural workers seeking to ensure that all agricultural workers in Ireland are free from exploitation in their workplaces.

“We are ill encountering exploitation of mushroom and other agricultural workers on a regular basis,” says Ms. Pirite.  “There is a need for continued vigilance and outreach to workers the mushroom sector as well as other agricultural sectors in order to continue rooting out exploitation especially as agriculture relies more than ever on international migrant workers.”

Ms. Pirite continues, “International migrant workers have become a major part of the 14,000 strong ‘non-family’ agricultural workforce in Ireland.   While the total number and percentage of migrant workers within the sector is not known exactly, AgWA estimates currently that up to 70% of non-family agricultural workers are international migrant workers.   In certain sectors, such as the mushroom growing industry, the most significant horticultural crop grown in Ireland, it is estimated that more than 90% of those employed are migrant workers.”