Migrant groups want pay probe to extend beyond fishing sector
The Government is considering special sectoral work permits to ease the fears of non-EU contract workers while a major probe proceeds into allegations of cheap labour exploitation within the Irish fishing industry.
The task-force, which is led by the gardaí, staged its first meeting yesterday with Marine Minister Simon Coveney vowing that vulnerable workers have nothing to fear in the crackdown to safeguard employment rights and safety regulations.
But migrant workers' representatives have criticised the task-force, saying it should encompass all non-EU workers in the country including those employed in the restaurant and care home sectors.
The International Transport Federation (ITF) said the issues raised by 'The Guardian' newspaper had first been highlighted in Ireland back in 2008.
But Irish trawler operators have vehemently rejected the allegations as "false and scurrilous".
Several trawler operators are now considering legal action.
It has also emerged that a colleague of the Filipino fisherman at the centre of the allegations has supplied a written summary of working conditions in Ireland which contradict the published claims.
The man worked on the same vessel at the same time as the Filipino who claimed he was exploited and mistreated.
"He was devastated to have to go home as he was very happy here," a spokesman for the trawler operator said.
"He had worked all over the world and the conditions here were the best he had encountered."
The chief executive of rights group NASC stressed that migrants must be properly protected.
"We would strongly recommend that a sectoral work permit scheme be introduced to ensure that the recruitment of future non-EU workers was regulated and those workers equally protected," Fiona Finn said.
The Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) echoed those concerns.
"We deal every day with people being underpaid and mistreated in the hospitality sector, in car washes, in the home care sector and all of these people need to have their rights protected," warned MRCI rights director Grainne O'Toole.