‘It was sad to see men living in such conditions’

ACE ESMERIA and Rene Mesana accepted when they came to the British Isles that they would be earning just €435 per month.

Last night Rene said they knew it was a small wage for such a tough job as commercial fishing but they were willing to accept it given its greater worth in the Philippines.

Ace, 24, and Rene, 26, said they did not know that the minimum wage in this country is almost three times that figure. They were shocked when they heard that it was more than €8 per hour, pointing out they earned little more than that for a whole day’s work.

Timothy Murphy who employed the two men through a Filipino shipping agency, said he was spending an additional €600 on the men by way of putting them up in a caravan, insuring them on the boat, giving them the proper clothing and giving them pocket money for food. He also claimed he did not know there were restrictions on their visas, said they were only expected to work 35 hours per week in most weeks and that the hours were spread over four days.

Mr Murphy’s representatives said his industry was facing tough times and insisted he had by no means made large profits off the two men’s backs.

However, the International Transport Federation’s Ken Fleming was scathing in his condemnation of the conditions in which the two men were living, the lack of adequate fishing clothing which they claimed to have been given and the fact that as he pointed out, the money they were being paid was a fraction of the minimum wage the public can expect in this country. He also questioned the accuracy of the €600 in additional costs claimed by Mr Murphy.

Mr Fleming said the men had told him they were working far in excess of 35 hours per week.

“It was sad to see two men living in such cramped conditions, what appeared to be a 28ft by 12 ft caravan which had a broken window and very outdated equipment. When we arrived they were there trying to dry their clothes on a line draped across the small living space of the caravan. Rene of the men told me he had to wear the same socks for three days on the boat because it took that long for the other pair to dry. He also said the only decent coat he was given was by a Filipino he had met in the country.”

Mr Fleming came across the two men after finding out that there were up to 1,000 of their countrymen also being paid exceptionally badly in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He and his British counterparts are demanding that the Irish and British Governments takeaction to tackle the problem.

However, he thanked senior members of the local fishing bodies in Castletownbere to for helping him to recoup what was owed to the two men and well helping him to ensure they will be successfully repatriated in the coming days.

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