More than half of all migrant workers earn less than the minimum wage, a new report revealed today.
A further 43% work in excess of the 48 hours a week, and 44% do not get rest breaks.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) said a survey uncovered the shocking exploitation of immigrant workers in Ireland’s restaurant sector.
It found 85% worked overtime for no extra pay, while 74% were afraid to complain for fear of being sacked and losing work permits.
Bill Abom, of MRCI’s restaurant workers action group, said there are serious problems in how migrant workers are treated in the industry.
“These results are shocking,” said Mr Abom.
“A successful restaurant industry is important for Ireland, but that success must not be built on the back of exploited workers.
“The government needs to come to grips with the problem and take immediate action.”
MRCI called for changes in the sector and in the work permit system to allow workers change employers.
One worker said he earned as little as €50 a week for working 72 hours in a Co Wicklow restaurant, and over a five year period had just one unpaid holiday.
“I came to Ireland because I wanted to build a better life and earn money to support my wife and family and help my younger brother go to university,” said Jamal Haque, 35-year-old from Bangladesh.
“I felt like I was treated like a slave. After I left it took me a long time to get the courage to make a complaint against him.”
MRCI urged the Government to fast track the Employment Law Compliance Bill (ELCB) and enforce employment laws.
Members also asked the National Employment Rights Authority (Nera) to take on designated restaurant inspectors after a recent check of 850 eating houses by Nera found 76% were in breach of employment legislation.
MRCI chairman Bobby Gilmore said Ireland relies heavily on tourism and, in turn, the hospitality of people working in the service industry.
“We should wish for migrants in Ireland what we wish for our own migrants, three million of which are living abroad today,” he added.