Motorway workers share €1m payout for 'appalling' treatment
The High Court has awarded more than €1m in damages and interest to 20 Portuguese workers over their treatment while building a section of the M7 motorway 10 years ago.
Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said they were "treated appallingly by their employers".
They had worked here for periods of up to two years and it "beggars belief that their ordeal could have lasted for so long", she said.
The workers claimed they were underpaid while working for a Portuguese partnership contracted to construct a section of the motorway between Limerick and Nenagh.
They claimed deductions taken from their wages for accommodation and laundry were not reasonable or fair and their accommodation was not of a reasonable standard.
The award was against Portuguese-based Rosas Construtores SA, Constructocoes Gabriel AS Couto SA, and Empresa Deconstrucoes Amandio Carvalho SA, all trading under the title RAC Contractors or RAC Eire Partnership.
The defendant was not represented in court and the claims were uncontested.
The judge said the workers who gave evidence were "decent hard-working individuals" who were "entirely blameless" in the events that unfolded since the contract was awarded to build the road in 2006.
The judge praised the work of the State authorities in their works to "regularise the defendant's enterprise", adding that "the defendants had fought them every step of the way".
Their working conditions were brought to light following investigations conducted by the National Employment Rights Authority.
Evidence was given that the Portuguese workers lived in a cramped prefab building with between six to eight people per room.