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Employers withheld over €19.5m in wages from workers since 2011 - Louise O'Reilly TD

10 August, 2022

Following receipt of Workplace Relations Commission data on withheld, or stolen, wages from workers by employers since 2011, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has called for additional staff and resources to be provided to the WRC to tackle breaches of employment law.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Despite being underfunded and under-resourced, the WRC does fantastic work on behalf of workers across this state.

“In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, the WRC carried out 4,432 inspections in 2021 and 1,863 to date in 2020. One of the standout results of these investigations was the recovery of €1,637,811 in withheld, or stolen, wages from workers.

“Indeed, broader data provided to me via Parliamentary Question showed that since 2011 over €19.5m in withheld or stolen wages were returned to workers following WRC investigations. 

“This shocking data lifts the lid on a rampant and disgusting practice. Any employer who deliberately withholds wages from a worker, or deliberately under pays a worker, should be named, shamed, and punished.

“There is an old saying 'always pay what you owe and always ask for what you’re owed', and I am sure these employers would not be shy in letting a customer or business know when they owed them money, yet here we have thousands of them stealing wages off workers.

“Unfortunately, this practice has been rampant across workplaces for decades, and it begs the question of the punishment for such breaches of employment law are fit for practice.

“The withholding of wages is particularly rampant in sectors where women and migrant workers are highly employed – the food and drink, retail, and nursing and childcare sectors.

“Given the WRC is understaffed and underfunded, it is a logical assumption that with more resources to conduct investigations the figure for withheld, or stolen, wages would be much higher. 

“The only way to combat this unscrupulous practice is to empower and fund the WRC to carry out a greater number of investigations across the whole economy and to ensure the punishment fits the crime.”

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