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Migrant workers rights, health and safety abused in Limerick

category limerick | worker & community struggles and protests | opinion/analysis author Wednesday March 21, 2007 12:25author by BossWatcher - - Report this post to the editors

Advice appreciated

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.

1st Case:

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.

2nd Case
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.

author by Con Carrollpublication date Wed Mar 21, 2007 13:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

have you tried Independent Workers Union

author by Liberty Hall Langerpublication date Thu Mar 22, 2007 14:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is basically pointless to try to help abused migrant workers one by one, especially when they have left the job, though fair play to you for trying. I believe that you might consider publicising these cases, especially to customers of the employers, as a quicker way to get them some compensation. The industrial relations machinery is a relic of an age when there was some internal pressure within the employer class to keep a lid on exploitation.

What CAN work for migrants is solid patient union organising - migrant to migrant and native to native. Not much comfort for these two brothers, I know.

author by Sallypublication date Thu Mar 22, 2007 15:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd recommend that you contact the Limerick Citizens Information Centre, 54 Catherine Street
Limerick City-Tel: +353 61 311 444. They have an advocacy worker in place who can assist you with this query. Referring such cases to mainstream organisations is important so that the wider policy issues can be picked up. and the imemdiate issue can be dealt with. My own experience of reporting issues to the HSA is that they only investigate when their is a loss of limb/life. In terms of the Labour Relations Commission, this is an effective mechanism with which to address specific work related issues and is usually heard within a few months. Ultimately though the only sanction for an employer here is monetary. In my own experince all cases were resolved and the complainant received monetary compensation. SIPTU has been very active in supporting workers rights and on their website they have information available in a range of languages which makes their service accessible to all users.

author by stephen cumminspublication date Thu Mar 22, 2007 22:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In answer to the query from Limerick. Can I suggest that you contact the Migrants Rights Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin telephone 01.8897570 and email at
stephen cummins

author by Bosswatcherpublication date Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'll check those all out.

author by Sallypublication date Fri Mar 23, 2007 15:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The MRCI is a fantastic organisation doing groundbreaking work in the area of seeking redress for migrant workers experiencing exploitation amongst other issues. However, it is really important that where there is a regional service available e.g. advocacy worker at CIC, Limerick that they are used. The MRCI is overburdened and needs to be able to refer regional issues to regional organisations where there is a service. This also allows the regional organisations to develop and build on their expertise. In the Limerick area, Doras Luimni are also beginning to develop a local response to migrant worker issues.

author by christain - non union workers rightspublication date Sun Dec 14, 2008 13:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

these employers that are mentioned above have alawys been around native or migrant it doesnt matter and it will continue unless we have a volinter group with no polictical or union interests and that are willing to stand up to this exploytation

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