Workplace Exploitation

‘We had to do everything ourselves …. We were here a year with no documents’.                                             Female A2 national

‘I have not received a contract. No-one has a contract. No safety instructions, no induction, nothing’.                                                   Male A8 national

Quotes from two migrant workers, in Forced Labour in Northern Ireland (Allamby et al, 2011)

Since numbers of migrant workers increased in the Northern Ireland labour force in the early 2000s, Trade Unions, researchers and advisers have reported exploitation. Instances of abuse that have been reported include the following:

  • No written contracts or payslips
  • Pay being withheld, and workers being paid below the minimum wage
  • the manipulation of workers’ documents
  • Passports retained by employment agencies during the period of employment
  • No paid holidays and excessive working hours
  • Less favourable working conditions than local people
  • Workers’ health and safety put at risk
  • Dismissal for minor disciplinary offences, or the threat of dismissal if a worker complains. Often, no reasons are given for dismissal.
  • Women dismissed because they were pregnant
  • Contracts promised before arrival here are often not fulfilled.
  • Contracts are often for short periods, increasing levels of anxiety about future employment
  • threats and verbal abuse against workers
  • workers forced to pay exorbitant deductions from wages for unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation

There is advice about the rights of agency workers on the NI Direct web site, as well as details concerning Minimum Wage Rates and help with getting the correct pay rates.

The Department of the Economy web site provides advice on employment rights, including hours, holiday pay etc. and redress, for example through the Labour Relations Agency.

The Department for the Economy has an Employment Agency Inspectorate, which investigates complaints about employment agencies or businesses.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NI) has a Migrant Worker Support Unit (MWSU)

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) works to protect vulnerable and exploited workers and they regulate the licencing of gangmasters in horticulture and food processing.