Migrants’ group calls for reform of work permit system

THE Government is facing renewed calls to change the Irish work permit system with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) launching a campaign calling for immigrant workers to have the right to change employer.

The campaign, which is being launched today in Dublin, is calling for a change in the regulations governing the approximately 25,000 migrant workers currently in the Employment Permit System.

As the system currently operates, these workers are only allowed to work for the employer designated on their permit. They are not allowed to freely change employer.

MRCI spokeswoman Delphine O’Keeffe said; “Binding a worker to an employer in this way is a leading factor in exploitation. Approximately 80% of all the cases taken by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland involve workers in the permit system, many employed in low-wage sectors, such as agriculture, domestic work, hotels and restaurants.”

She said workers must be allowed to change employer. “To counter exploitation and to ensure a fair playing field for compliant employers, the Employment Permits System must change to give employment permit holders the right to change employer in their job sector.

“Workers in the permit system, as all workers, deserve this most basic and fundamental right.”

The current permit system has also been criticised by the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine which has stated that some emergency departments may have to close or curtail their hours as a result of a shortage of junior doctors, which it says is largely due to the difficulties of non-EU workers securing permits.

Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said that it “makes absolutely no sense from a health or an economic point of view” leaving health facilities “lying idle”.

She added that the Irish health service has always depended to a certain extent on junior hospital doctors from abroad and that many were experiencing difficulties in getting visas and work permits for a sufficient period of time which was “something that needs to be addressed”.

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