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Employment Rights Compliance Bill does not go far enough to protect workers – Morgan

18 February, 2009

Sinn Féin Workers' Rights Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has welcomed the long overdue delivery of the Employment Rights Compliance Bill. However Deputy Morgan said he believes that the Bill does not go far enough to root out the problem of exploitation of workers.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Morgan said, "At a time when unemployment is rising, small and medium sized firms are being refused credit by the banks and our manufacturing industry is falling off the cliff due to the inaction and irresponsible decisions of this Government, the issue of workers' rights has never been more crucial.

"We have been waiting for this Bill to come before the Oireachtas for the past two and a half years. The Bill was promised under the 'Towards 2016' partnership agreement but the Government has dragged its heels ever since. While the Government has deliberately delayed bringing the Bill forward there have been serious abuses of workers, particularly migrant workers.

"We were all horrified by the Prime Time programme last December which revealed shocking stories of exploitation of migrant workers in the road transport sector and the restaurant sector. We have seen the numerous reports from the Migrant Rights Centre of workers being made to work 72 hours in restaurants without a break or farm workers being given only €5 an hour while working seven days a week. Slavery was supposed to have been abolished hundreds of years ago but this form of wage slavery is still very much alive.

"In a modern country it is unacceptable for workers to be exploited in the way that they are and if this continues it will only result in a race to the bottom which will undermine any progress which had been made over the last two decades.

"While I welcome the long overdue delivery of this Bill, which had positive features such as the increase in fines for breaches of employment legislation, the protection provided for whistleblowers and the placing of the National Employment Rights Agency on a statutory footing, I believe that the Bill has not gone far enough to root out the problem of exploitation which damages and can destroy the lives of workers.

"The Bill fails to provide labour inspectors with powers to issue on the spot fines, there is no provision for the naming and shaming of rogue employers in breach of workers rights, there is still no proper protection of undocumented workers and there is no place for NGOs to assist workers in the enforcement of labour court decisions." ENDS

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