A RESTAURANT WORKER who was forced to work for seven years for paltry pay and almost no days off has been awarded €86,000 by the Labour Court.
Muhammad Younis, who is originally from Pakistan, worked as a chef at the Poppadom restaurant in Clondalkin from 2002 to 2009 in what have been described as ‘chronic conditions’ by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI).
Younis was forced to work 77 hours a week without a contract. He paid no tax or social insurance contributions and was subjected to threats.
The Irish Independent reports today that he was paid just 51 cent an hour during the first three years that he worked at the restaurant. His hourly pay rose to just under €4.50 in 2005, and then to €6.25 in 2006.
Younis shared a house with nine other workers. The accommodation was provided by his ex-employer Amjad Hussein, who was this week ordered to pay tens of thousands in back wages by the Labour Court. A Rights Commissioner originally awarded the sum to Mr. Younis, but his former employer has not yet paid the compensation.
Younis has been living in a hostel for the past two years, after he left his job and sought assistance from the MRCI. His former employer had failed to renew his work permit, leaving him undocumented. Younis has welcomed the Labour Court decision, saying:
I am away from my family, jobless and I am owed a lot of money for my work. I am suffering because of the bad treatment I was subjected to. All I want now is justice.
The MRCI yesterday said that it regularly comes across cases in Ireland were vulnerable people are being held and forced to work in conditions of slavery. The organisation said there have been at least 150 cases in the past six years.
Delphine O’Keefe of the MRCI told TheJournal.ie that the restaurant industry is one of the sectors where non-compliance and exploitation are ongoing issues. She’s calling on the government to introduce a law to specifically criminalise forced labour.
The MRCI has said that Ireland is in breach of Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides protection against slavery and forced labour. It says that the biggest struggle facing the MRCI in terms of Mr. Younis’ case is ensuring that he actually gets paid what he is owed.