The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has called upon the Government to amend the employment permit system, following yesterday’s (28th October) announcement of changes to rules for granting new permits across a range of sectors.
It urged business and employment minister Damien English to amend the system so that people on general employment permits are provided the same rights as those on critical skills permits.
This would give general employment permit holders the right to freely change employers after two years instead of five, enabling workers to better challenge exploitation. The MRCI said such changes would give migrant workers an equal right to have their immediate family with them, in addition to the right for their family members to work in Ireland.
The MRCI has continued to raise concerns of exploitation, bullying and unsafe working conditions across various industries employing people on employment permits over the last 20 years. A 2020 report exposed the exploitative and unsafe working conditions in the meat processing sector, a sector which was granted access to thousands of permits in recent years and is now being granted an additional 2,000 general employment permits.
MRCI deputy director Bill Abom said his organisation was deeply concerned that the employment permits system has changed little since its inception, and that a draconian approach to workers’ rights remains.
“People on general employment permits must wait five years before they have the right to freely change employer, making it extremely difficult for workers to challenge exploitation, bullying and unsafe conditions,” he said.
He added: “People who come to work in Ireland should be afforded the same rights as all workers. As it stands currently, this is not the case. Putting rights in the hand of workers is the best way to combat exploitation. If a worker is being poorly treated, they should be given the option to easily change employer. Right now people are too afraid to speak up against exploitation or bad conditions for fear of losing their employment permit, their income and their immigration status.”
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