Migrant worker awarded €200,000 over job 'slavery'
Published 14/04/2010 | 05:00
A MIGRANT worker who was forced to endure slave-like conditions working in the family home of his Irish employer was awarded €200,000 through the Labour Court, a forum on worker's rights heard yesterday.
Surinder Singh's case was one of many highlighted yesterday by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), who are campaigning to ensure migrant workers are allowed to leave jobs without becoming undocumented.
The workers face exploitation by employers because the current permit system binds them to one employer, according to the MRCI.
Mr Singh yesterday described the slave-like conditions he endured during his first six years in this country.
Arriving here straight from India, aged 21 and with little English, he understood he would be cooking meals for the family in Longford who got his work permit.
But he ended up working in the family clothing store from 10am to 6pm, as well as cooking meals for the family and taking care of all the housework.
He had to vacuum the house, iron the clothes, mop the floors, wash the car, take care of the garden and even do tiling and painting.
"I would get up every day at 8am and would not go to bed before midnight, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, with no rest or break other than eating and sleeping at night. As soon as one job was done, I would do something else," he said.
Mr Singh, who is now married with an 18-month-old son, Priansh, said that when he asked for a day off, his employer, Ardash Puri, told him that if he wanted a day off, he could go back to India.
"He would say to me, 'You are on my work permit!' It is not fair that we cannot freely change employer," he said. "If I had that right, I would not have stayed so long in that bad situation."