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Morgan challenges Martin to change permit system which facilitates exploitation of migrant workers

20 April, 2005


During Dáil questions today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. challenged the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Michael Martin T.D., to bring forward legislation to reform the work permits system so that the work permit would be held by the employee rather than the employer. "Such reform", Deputy Morgan said, "would go some way towards curbing exploitation of migrant workers such as that which has come to public attention in recent weeks."

Deputy Morgan said:

"Does the Minister not accept that the current system is designed to disempower the migrant worker and facilitates exploitation by employers?

"Does the Minister not accept that a migrant worker, who is in a foreign country and whose ability to remain here is dependent on his/her employer who holds his/her work permit, is much more likely to tolerate exploitation from an employer than other workers? Who holds the work permit is part of the problem and addressing it is part of the solution to combating exploitation of migrant workers. I am calling on the Minister to bring forward legislation to reform the work permits system so that the work permit would be held by the employee rather than the employer. Such reform would go some way towards curbing exploitation of migrant workers such as that which has come to public attention in recent weeks.

"Does the Minister agree that revelations regarding exploitation of workers at Gama, Irish Ferries and elsewhere undermine denials from his department and his predecessor that the permit system does not allow exploitation?

I am specifically referring to claims that work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. This has been shown not to be the case. For example I would like to ask the Minister what action his Department is undertaking against Irish Ferries in relation to a Philippino woman who was employed at well below the national minimum wage?

"Has the Minister been lobbied or has he come under pressure from employers organisations or representatives to maintain the current work permit system?"

While failing to agree to specifically include the proposals made by Deputy Morgan in the forthcoming employment rights legislation, Minister Mícheál Martin conceded that the arguments made by Deputy Morgan were reasonable and needed to be addressed. ENDS

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