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Friday 22 September 2017

Filipino diplomat accused of hiring maid for just €25

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A diplomatic row has broken out over allegations that a domestic worker was paid substantially less than the minimum wage by a Filipino diplomat.

John Ferris, the former Philippines honorary consul in Ireland, claimed a woman was paid just €25 a week by the diplomat, who was based at the country's embassy on St Stephen's Green in Dublin.

The Filipina woman was not employed by the embassy but was contracted to work as a maid by the diplomat working there.

She travelled to Ireland with the diplomat in 2009, but left her job after just six months.

The woman has now taken an employment case, with the support of the Migrant Rights Centre, over her terms and conditions.

Mr Ferris revealed details of the pay row in a letter to the chairwoman of the Labour Relations Commission, Breege O'Donoghue, which he also published in a Filipino interest newsletter.

The former honorary consul, who stepped down from the role in July 2009 after 18 years, criticised the embassy's response to the row.

He wrote the letter after being told that no representative from the embassy had attended a rights commissioner hearing on the pay complaint.

Last night the embassy distanced itself from the dispute.

It said issues had arisen between two Filipino nationals who had entered into an agreement on working conditions in the Philippines before coming to Ireland.

The embassy said it hoped the matter could be resolved and that it had advised the Department of Foreign Affairs on the situation.

However, Mr Ferris wrote that it was "shameful and unfair that domestic workers employed by diplomats are being denied access to their basic rights".

Mr Ferris, who is married to a woman from the Philippines and has represented and assisted people from that country in employment matters, told the Irish Independent the woman at the centre of the case worked for the diplomat between July and December of 2009.

"She came with one of the embassy staff from Manila. I believe she was paid €25 a week, had to work enormous hours and wasn't allowed to use hot water during the winter," he said. Mr Ferris also alleged the embassy had invoked diplomatic immunity so it would not have to send a representative to the rights commissioner hearing.

His comments have ignited a major diplomatic row and are believed to have incensed embassy officials.

A spokeswoman for the Migrant Rights Centre said it was providing legal assistance to the woman.

However, she declined to comment further.

A determination on the case may be made public later this month.

Special

In a statement issued last night, the embassy's consul general, Hjayceelyn Quintana, said it was in discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs about the dispute.

"This is a situation that has arisen between two Filipino citizens and an agreement between them executed in the Philippines," the statement said.

"Neither of the two persons are residents of Ireland but are in Ireland on the basis of a special type of visa under arrangement with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The embassy has exerted and continues to exert efforts for the two Filipino citizens to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to address the situation."

Questions posed by the Irish Independent about the woman's working conditions, the embassy's apparent refusal to engage in the employment case, and the embassy's position on Irish labour laws, were not responded to.

Irish Independent

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