Dáil debates

Thursday, 24 February 2005

3:00 pm

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Clare, Fianna Fail)

I am aware of concerns expressed by a number of trade unions regarding alleged abuse of immigrant construction workers, and where such cases were brought to my attention I have asked the labour inspectorate to pursue the matter.

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Employers are required to maintain records in respect of such employees and these records, together with other substantiating evidence, for example, a statement from an employee, provide the essentials of a basis for legal proceedings. Failure on behalf of the employer to maintain adequate records is an offence. I urge anyone who has specific evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the construction industry are governed by the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) Variation Order, which is enforced by the labour inspectorate of my Department. In this regard the rate of pay which can be enforced in respect of construction operatives under the terms of the registered employment agreement is €7.36 per hour.

Enforcement of the provisions of a registered employment agreement may also be effected under the Industrial Relations Acts. A trade union, an association of employers or an individual employer may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a registered employment agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the court is satisfied the employer is in breach of a registered employment agreement it may by order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine.

Where employers seek work permits to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires a statement of the main functions of the job: salary or wages, deductions other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is evidence of intention to comply with minimum wage legislation. Applications for work permit renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid. Form P60 and other sources are used for this.

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