Migrant worker awarded €116,000 in 'forced labour' case

A Dublin restaurant has been ordered to pay a migrant worker €116,000 compensation for gross breaches in employment law, it emerged today.

A Dublin restaurant has been ordered to pay a migrant worker €116,000 compensation for gross breaches in employment law, it emerged today.

The Pakistani man, who was forced to work in appalling conditions for five years, earned just €150 per week - of which €100 was deducted by the employer for his accommodation.

The worker told the Labour Relations Commission he had virtually no days off and that his employer held his passport and threatened him with revoking his work permit and deportation if he complained.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) said the case contains all the elements of human trafficking for forced labour.

The man, who was sacked when he came forward for help, was represented by the organisation at the hearing last December.

A Rights Commissioner this week ordered the restaurateur - who can not be identified - to pay compensation totalling €116,000. The landmark decision can be appealed at an Employment Appeals Tribunal.

MRCI's director Siobhan O'Donoghue said it took a lot of courage for the worker to break free from the threats and control that the employer apparently exerted over him.

"This case contains all the elements of human trafficking for forced labour," she said.

"This man was brought to Ireland and made to work under extremely exploitative conditions. He was controlled by the employer and threatened to the extent that he had no option but to tolerate the exploitation."

Ms O'Donoghue said the victim was fortunate that he was still documented when he contacted MRCI, making it possible to seek justice.

However, she called for better protection for people trafficked for forced labour in the upcoming Immigration Bill, to be discussed in the Dáil tomorrow.

"We are at the very early stages in this country of understanding trafficking for forced labour," she continued.

"If Justice Minister Brian Lenihan is serious about combating trafficking of people then he needs to acknowledge that trafficking for forced labour is a reality in this country, and offer real protections to those in these situations. Anything less is shameful."

Meanwhile, a new survey has revealed that office discrimination has almost doubled in the last five years.

Employment law firm Peninsula Ireland found nearly eight in 10 employees have overheard office conversations containing discriminatory remarks towards fellow colleagues, almost double that in 2003.

The study showed 43% of employees have overheard ethnic slurs, relating to an individual's ethnic background, while 72% admitted to 'harmlessly' making sexual or discriminatory remarks.

Alan Price, Head of Peninsula Ireland, said employers have a liability for all the actions and comments of staff made in the office.

"The employer needs to make it clear to staff that they will not tolerate any form of racial slur or offensive banter," said Mr Price.

"Comments made between employees, intended to be comical may be upsetting to others and this situation needs to be considered.

"What concerns me is despite society appearing to be more tolerable, discrimination is still topical when it comes to office jokes, whether or not it is meant to be harmless.

"What may be perceived as a joke between two people could easily cause offence and the difficulty for employees is to determine what will be considered appropriate banter."

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