We are lucky in some respects.
I am aware of the problem raised by Deputy Flanagan and am concerned that some individuals working here are not being paid for overtime and weekend work or are being expected to work weekends without remuneration. In other cases excessive fees are being deducted for accommodation. That is why a fairly aggressive campaign is under way from the labour inspectorate. The Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, works more closely in this area but I understand we have 20 inspectors working in this sector. Recently they have been in contact with 100 employment agencies in the State as well as research agencies in this area. A number of prosecutions are pending.
The Deputy will know that our employment rights legislation does not discriminate between Irish nationals and others working in this jurisdiction but on occasion foreign workers, because of the language barrier, are not necessarily aware of their employment rights. That is why we are changing the administrative regime for issuing work permits. Heretofore the application had to be solely made by the prospective employer but we want to ensure the prospective employee is fully aware of his or her rights and we will also ensure that this employment law is issued to each prospective employee in his or her native language. We are beginning with six languages – Russian, Latvian, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish and Chinese – and we hope in time to move on to other languages but most of our applicants come from these areas.
Four main areas are being targeted at present: crèches, the agriculture sector and in particular the mushroom and meat plants, as well as the hotel and catering industries. Priority is being given to target areas where a large number of work permits have been issued and where there have been complaints against particular employers.