We need to put strict employment protocols in place for embassies

It does seem surprising, shortsighted and potentially counter-productive for the South African Embassy in Ireland to contemplate diplomatic immunity as a defence in the case of the domestic employee of its former charges d’affaires involved in the alleged ‘slave labour’ row at the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Regrettably, this is not the only instance of a senior foreign diplomat in the State being accused of exploiting domestic workers.

It is time for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to instruct his Department to establish protocol guidelines about all the privileges accorded to foreign diplomats here and publish these prominently on the Department’s web site.

Certain diplomats attached to embassies that have a substantial diplomatic and consular representation in Ireland can bring a limited number of private domestic employees into the State during the course of their tenure here.

But why are such domestic workers not required to obtain a temporary work visa, the application for which would have included the underlying employment contract?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade must ensure that the employment contracts of foreign domestic staff of diplomats takes into account Irish employment laws and Irish standards for wages and employment conditions; that such employees are paid in money, at least monthly and that all records are capable of being audited. Furthermore, a temporary work visa application ought to incorporate employer and employee declarations to the effect that both parties understand and will abide by standards laid down by the State.

If such a regime were in place there should be no more such allegations in Dublin embassies and the use of diplomatic immunity as a defence. Any misunderstanding and associated adverse reputation risk to this State or another jurisdiction would therefore be averted before a diplomat’s foreign domestic worker arrives.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary

Co Dublin

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