Migrants protest at 'inflexible and rigid' work-permit system
MIGRANT workers marched on Government Buildings yesterday in protest at a work-permit system they described as being a "chain around our necks".
Labour Affairs Minister Dara Calleary insisted the arrangements for permit holders who want to move jobs is "sufficiently flexible" and ensures the authorities can trace their employers.
"Were employees allowed to move jobs freely within a sector, it becomes more difficult to ensure that an employee's rights are respected," Mr Calleary said.
But those who protested outside his office insisted the system was anything but flexible.
They claimed the 25,000 migrant workers who hold permits can only work for the employer stated on the permit and cannot freely change bosses.
The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) has begun a campaign against what it claims are severe restrictions in the permit scheme.
It held a rally outside Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Minister Batt O'Keeffe's office and that of Mr Calleary's office on Kildare Street yesterday.
"Currently the system requires that a worker must stay a minimum of 12 months with an employer, pay another permit fee (€1,000) and wait several months during which time they are not allowed to work, before an appliation to change employer can be processed," said a spokesperson.
He said MRCI hears from migrant workers who are unable to leave exploitative working conditions because of the rigid and inflexible employment permit system on a daily basis.
"The permit is like a chain around your neck," said a migrant domestic worker.
"I couldn't leave my job. I was told by my employer that if I leave I will be illegal here and not be able to find another job.
"He said that I would be sent back home in shackles."