Written Answers. - Emigrant Workers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

67 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which she or her Department monitor working and pay conditions of emigrant workers; if she has satisfied herself that all rights and entitlements under Irish law are being observed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17313/03]

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including emigrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found the inspectorate seek redress for the individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to emigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers.

In 2002 the inspectorate undertook just over 8,300 inspections/visits mainly dealing with issues arising from more than 1,000 case-files, the national minimum wage, the Payment of Wages Act 1991 and employment regulation orders and ensured the payment of €354,000 in arrears of wages to employees. A total of 32 cases were referred to the Chief State Solicitor's Office for legal proceedings, 25 of these arising from the investigative work of the labour inspectorate. To date, the inspectorate has undertaken 1,194 inspections/visits and ensured payment of €105,655 in wage arrears. Seven cases have been referred to the Chief State Solicitor's Office for legal proceedings, all of these arising from the investigative work of the inspectorate.

In addition to the investigative work undertaken by inspectors in 2002, work also commenced on the development of a new case management system to support streamlined work procedures in the labour inspectorate. The new IT system is due to come fully on-line by the end of June this year. It will be the result of considerable investment by my Department – approximately €900,000 when completed – and will provide the technological support to enable inspectors operate more effectively and efficiently in their interactions with employers and employees alike.

Accordingly, I am satisfied that there are sufficient procedures in place and an appropriate level of inspection activity to ensure, as far as possible, that rights and entitlements under Irish law are being observed. If there is evidence that particular employers are exploiting emigrant workers I would ask that it be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate for investigation and further action.