Unannounced inspections are to be carried out on horse-racing facilities to investigate claims of exploitation, including the treatment of foreign nationals and children.
Horse Racing Ireland has been told inspectors will probe whether wages are being unfairly deducted, stable hands are working excessive hours, and insufficient records are being kept.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will begin announced as well as unannounced inspections from this month, after Independent4Change TD Clare Daly claimed recently that exploitation and tax avoidance was “rife” in the industry.
Her claims and specific details of them were forwarded by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to the WRC, which in turn has notified Horse Racing Ireland, the industry governing body, about a series of areas it will now investigate.
A letter — obtained by the Irish Examiner — to Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh from Brendan Hogan, the WRC manager overseeing inspections and enforcement, says inspectors will focus on:
The WRC said employers in the industry will be given opportunities to rectify contraventions of legislation governing the protection of workers, which the commission details. This could include paying “any unpaid wages arising from these contraventions”.
It said: “However, it is the policy of commission to issue compliance notices or fixed payment notices and/or to initiate legal proceedings in cases where an employer has failed or is unwilling” to voluntarily comply (including paying unpaid wages).
The Department of Jobs, which oversees the WRC, confirmed inspections of facilities will start this month.
Some estimates say that there are more than 10,000 stable staff in the racehorse industry.
Mr Kavanagh, when contacted by the Irish Examiner, declined to say if any sanctions or legal proceedings were ongoing over abuses in the sector. He said representative bodies for trainers and breeders had been notified about the WRC inspections.
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