Monday 24 October 2016

Almost half of migrant workers in Ireland’s low-pay sectors earn less than minimum wage

Jane O'Faherty

Published 26/11/2015 | 19:04

82pc did not receive a salary increase in the last year.
82pc did not receive a salary increase in the last year.

44pc of migrant workers in Ireland’s low-pay sectors are earning less than the minimum wage, a new report has found.

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The survey, published by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), also reveals that 48pc are surviving on less than €300 per week, while 61pc are required to work extra hours without pay.

Unpaid wages, working without contracts and discrimination were other issues highlighted, as MRCI calls for stronger penalties for employers who exploit their staff.

Speaking at the report’s launch, Grainne O’Toole of MRCI called the figures in the survey “very distressing”.

“Workers are struggling on minimum wage, but some workers aren’t even getting the minimum wage,” she said. “We know it’s a struggle, but there is research emerging now to show the actual links.”

“The whole issue of discrimination is becoming such a burning issue for people in terms of recruitment and progression as well,” she added.

Surveys were carried out in the restaurant, domestic, home care, retail and security sectors. Among the 104 workers surveyed, 45pc had no contract and 26pc did not receive payslips.

Meanwhile, 82pc did not receive a salary increase in the last year.

Ms O’Toole said that over half of those surveyed were now Irish citizens, while others were on work permits, student visas and the rest were undocumented.

Ms O’Toole added that the majority of respondents said they had been offered minimum wage or less, while Irish employees were offered over €10 per hour for the same job.

“One of the key things we found was that, unfortunately, discrimination is very commonplace and widespread,” she said.

It is hoped that the report will influence the MRCI’s agenda for the next five years.

The organisation is calling for a regularisation scheme for undocumented workers, as well as the introduction of a living wage of €11.50 per hour and programmes to combat discrimination in recruitment and the labour market.

Samy Selvedah from Mauritius worked in the same Irish hotel for 10 years. Although he studied Hospitality Management in DIT, he was never given the opportunity to progress.

“It is a terrible struggle surviving on minimum wage while the cost of living is always rising. I asked for a pay rise but I never got it,” he said.

“Despite my experience, despite retraining in hotel management, I was always passed over for management positions.”

Brian Campfield, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched the report and said that Irish workers should also get behind the campaign to combat poor working conditions for migrants.

“If employers can get away with paying low wages and pushing depressed wage levels, that’s going to have an impact on everyone else as well,” he said.

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