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New law to fix 'stolen wages' of undocumented workers

The amendment passed yesterday addresses a loophole regarding compensation for work or services carried out by undocumented workers.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

NEW EMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION has been welcomed by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland as an important step in preventing the exploitation of undocumented migrant workers in Ireland.

The Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014 was passed in Leinster House yesterday, and is due to come into effect on 1 September.

The Bill’s explanatory memo says that it extends the provisions of the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2005 to “address deficiencies identified in the legislation with the potential for employers to benefit from (at the cost of the employee) the un-enforceability of employment contracts in situations where an employee does not hold an employment permit but is required to do so”.

The amendment also facilitates the provision of civil proceedings to compensate foreign nationals for work done or services rendered in certain circumstances.

The MRCI says that this loophole in the previous legislation was highlighted by a High Court judgment in 2012 in the Hussein v The Labour Court case which overturned a Labour Court decision to award Mohammed Younis over €92,000 in back pay.

Speaking about the legislation’s approval at Government Buildings, Younis said:

This will make sure that workers like me will have the opportunity to claim stolen wages back through the courts. All undocumented workers exploited by unscrupulous employers in Ireland will now have their rights vindicated.

The MRCI said the legislation will allow undocumented workers who had previously held a work permit and lost it through no fault of their own to get another work permit.

MRCI Coordinator Gráinne O’Toole said that the rights group has some concerns about the legislation, including concerns over the potential use of work permit information for ethnic profiling, but that overall it is “progressive legislation”.

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“This legislation is undoubtedly crucial and will enable us to tackle the exploitation of migrant workers more effectively,” O’Toole said.

“We will be spending time in the civil courts seeking to secure compensation for stolen wages for the many migrant workers who were affected by the Mohammed Younis judgment.”

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