Labour of Love campaign fights for rights of au pairs

Labour of Love is a new campaign to end the exploitation of au pairs in private homes across Ireland.

Labour of Love campaign fights for rights of au pairs

The campaign wants recognition of the employment rights of au pairs, including the right to a minimum wage.

Spokeswoman for the group Jane Xavier said au pairs were workers, not cultural exchange participants.

“In law, au pairs have the same rights as any other workers,” she said. “In practice, however, we are being used for full-time flexible childcare and domestic labour for a fraction of the minimum wage.

“This is unacceptable in 2015. We need to ensure au pairs know their rights as workers and families know their obligations as employers.”

Aoife Smith, from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, said they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of exploited au pairs coming to the centre in recent years.

“These young women are working in excess of 40, 50, 60, and even 70 hours weekly for very little pay and they are afraid to leave even the most exploitative situations because they risk being homeless,” said Ms Smith.

She said the women were providing essential childcare services in a country where creche fees were among the highest in Europe and where the State was not investing in public childcare.

“Despite the importance of their work, au pairs are being paid a pittance. Their basic employment rights are being completely ignored.”

She said the campaign was also calling for an employment permit for domestic work.

“Demand for domestic work in Ireland has increased, but discriminatory immigration and employment policies have created a sector rife with exploitation, poor conditions and even trafficking,” said Ms Smith.

Maria (not her real name), 30, from Brazil attended the campaign launch outside the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation in Dublin. She worked as an au pair for 50 hours a week and received €150.

“I thought it was great at the beginning but day by day I realised it wasn’t,” she said.

“Last year, I worked 72 hours during Christmas and 70 hours during New Year’s week and I received €3.55 an hour. I am not a slave and I asked my boss about overtime. She told me I had no rights and I need to stay 100% available.”

Maria, who came to Ireland to study English, did not know she had employment rights until she called the Migrants Rights Centre.

“I thought the pay was OK because I asked other people like me,” she said.

Jane, also from Brazil, said:

“I work as a childminder in a private home but I used to work as an au pair eight years ago when I arrived in Ireland. When I was an au pair I was not exploited. I was paid the minimum wage, but I knew I was one of the lucky ones.”

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