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Migrant workers rights, health and safety abused in Limerick
I have been contacted recently by a number of foreign workers who have been screwed over by their employers in both money and health and safety issues. None of them speak much english and none were in a union. Finding it hard to get them help through Solicitors, any advice on how to proceed would be appreciated.
P was working in a factory in country Limerick as a machine operator. The machine he worked on required constant ventilation to prevent the build up of flammable gasses inside.
The machine he was working on was recently moved, but it was put back in operation before the related ventialtion equipment was moved. P was working away normally when there was a spark, and then an explosion which threw him several meters and scorched his right arm. Luckily he landed on soft material on the floor and avoided further injury.
He left the factory to go to hospital where his arms was dressed. He was not referred to a burns specialist. His GP told him he was unfit to go back to work, but as his job did not pay him any sick pay while he was out, he returned to work. I helped him to fill out a form for the social welfare sick pay, as his workplace didn't tell him about it, nor did they offer to pay for his hospital treatment until pushed on it a few times.
Solicitors have been reluctant to take up the case due to the language barrier, and also citing the Personal Injuries Assessment Board as a serious bureaucratic obstacle that can delay taking a case for up to 15 months. A lot of migrant workers would not even be staying that long in the country. The HSA have yet to confirm if the factory even reported the accident to them. The factory has belatedly moved the ventilation equipment that should have been moved in the first place.
G was working for a firm in Limerick making stable related equipment. He has almost no english and was fairly unaware of the workers rights here.
He was paid 15 cents below the minimum wage, was working about 70 hours per week, with Sunday as his only day off. His boss told him that in Ireland overtime is paid for each hour after the 48th hour of the week, and then paid about 10% extra for overtime. Wage slips were handwritten, with barely any details, and then when he got his P60 for 2006, G noticed that the boss had understated his gross pay by a few thousand euro, and also declared that he had deducted less than 100 euro in PAYE when in fact he had taken about ten times as much from G telling him it was tax and PRSI.
The worst incident came when the boss asked G to load the truck for a delivery. G started loading the truck, and then stopped to tell the boss that there were not enough straps to tie down such a large load and that they should wait until he went off to fetch more. The boss told G that he wanted to beat the traffic, and that they would have to be tied down with what they had. Half way to the delivery point they noticed that half the load had disappeared from the trailer. The boss decided to dock over a thousand euro from G's wages. When G decided to ask for his rights, the boss cut his hours so much that he couldn't live on it, and so quit. Have sent forms to rights commissioners but no response so far.
Has anyone else had experience of working with the bureacracy in situations like this. Are the HSA of any use to workers? Their website seems to be mostly directed at employers for self reporting and regulation rather than for workers to report an accident.
Some of the unions have been trying hard to recruit foreign workers and publish forms in Polish, Czech etc informing them of their rights. A lot of firms wont allow union reps on site, and of course some workers hours don't allow them a chance to seek out a union.
any tips welcome.