Thursday, 1 April 2021
Employment Permits (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021: First Stage
I thank the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, OPLA, for its help in guiding us through these measures.
Employment permit legislation is very complex, difficult and labyrinthine, deliberately so, because it speaks of the State's attitude to migrant workers, which in many cases is one of barely concealed contempt. Getting a permit, renewing a permit and surviving here is not made easy by the State or by many employers who are willing to use the labour of migrant workers but are unwilling to pay them decent wages or provide them with decent conditions. The entire area needs root-and-branch reform and workers must be at the forefront in that regard. I hope to see them organised in great numbers in trade unions in the coming years and joining with Irish workers in demanding workers rights and decent livelihoods.
The intent behind the Bill is to try to address an imbalance. It will allow a number of other measures beyond those that Deputy Paul Murphy outlined. It will allow workers the right to change employers within the first year that they arrive here and will strip employers of the huge power they hold over migrant workers. Second, it will give migrant workers access to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, where their employment permit is not valid. We have had cases of workers being rewarded up to €90,000 for unpaid and exploitative labour by the WRC, but the money could not be paid because of a loophole stating that if a work permit is invalid, the individual cannot receive the reward. The Bill attempts to address that matter.
I thank the staff in my office, but I also thank SIPTU for its participation and advice, the Independent Workers Union of Ireland and Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. Their help was invaluable. We want to see the Bill passed so it will address and strengthen the rights of these and other vulnerable migrant workers.