The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or 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 immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers.
During 2003, work was completed on the development of a new case management system to support streamlined work procedures in the labour inspectorate. The new IT system went live at the end of June 2003 and was operated in parallel with the existing system up to the end of the year. The new system represents a considerable investment by the Department, approximately €900,000, in the enforcement of employment rights for all workers. The system provides the technological support to enable inspectors operate more effectively and efficiently in their interactions with employers and employees alike.
In addition, where employers seek work permits in order to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires the statement of the main functions of the job, salary-wages, deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. Applications for renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid and that P60 and other sources are used. Work permits are not granted for sectors such as domestic employment where it is believed that such employment can be met from the Irish-EEA labour market and where there is a greater risk of exploitation.
I am satisfied that there are sufficient procedures in place and an appropriate level of inspection activity, 7,168 inspections-visits in 2003, to ensure, as far as possible, that rights and entitlements under Irish law are being observed for all workers. If there is evidence that employers are exploiting immigrant workers I ask that it be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate for investigation and further action.