Government still ‘failing’ domestic workers, MRCI claims

The Government has been accused of "failing" domestic workers falling prey to exploitation by not ratifying laws aimed at securing their rights.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland yesterday marked International Domestic Workers Day by stating that the Government needed to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, claiming “justice delayed is justice denied”.

The MRCI’s Domestic Workers Action Group said au pairs, carers, childminders, cleaners, and housekeepers were still being exploited and experiencing poor working conditions.

The MRCI previously published a small-scale study on how au pairs are treated in Irish homes, finding that a significant minority felt they were being exploited, with 13% of respondents not allowed out of the house even after their tasks were completed.

MRCI chairwoman Hilda Regaspi said: “It is not just the ILO Convention we are waiting for; we are also waiting five years for much-needed measures from the Department of Foreign Affairs to protect vulnerable migrant domestic workers employed in embassies and diplomatic households — we’ve been told these standards are at drafting stage for the last two years and still no action.”

Reynelde Mahilum, a domestic worker and DWAG campaigner, said: “Recent cases have shown how young women working as au pairs are particularly vulnerable to abuse. If the Government truly believes that carers, cleaners, au pairs, and housekeepers have rights, why won’t they show that and sign this Convention? Justice delayed is justice denied; we need action.”

The National Employment Rights Authority said that it was carrying out an ongoing programme of inspections involving domestic workers, with 98 cases inspected since 2011.

A NERA spokesperson said: “The inspection programme focussed on persons registered as employers of domestic workers through official records. As with the experience of other labour inspectorates internationally, the challenge remains to identify workers who are employed in the hidden economy, and unregistered with any state institution.”

The figures indicate that 54 of the employees involved in inspections were Irish, 21 were Filipino, while others came from Brazil, Poland, China, New Zealand, Germany, Lithuania, Nepal, and China

Of the inspections, 62 were in a private dwelling, and in 60 of the 98 cases, breaches in relation to record-keeping was detected, but were voluntarily rectified without prosecutions.

In five cases, arrears of wages were identified and paid to the employee.

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