Country Presentation on
Migrant Workers
Kasia Garbal
Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Migrant Workers in Ireland
Migration to Ireland relatively new phenomenon, as traditionally Ireland – country of
ROI – ca. 10% of population – 10.7 % of workforce (2006 Census)
NI – 3 % of population – 5% of workforce
Majority EU
Numbers declining in both jurisdictions
3D occupations: dirty, difficult, dangerous
Catering, hospitality, cleaning, agriculture, food processing, construction, nursing and care sector
Main problems
Exploitation and discrimination (contracts; pay and working conditions; irregular payment; withholding
of wages and holiday entitlement; race and sex discrimination)
Weak enforcement mechanisms of employment rights/ limited possibilities of legal redress/ employers’
Agency workers
Immigration policies: Work permits/ Destitution
Forced labour
 Recession – calls for limit on immigration/ “local jobs for local workers”/ migrants
disproportionately affected/ unemployment/ increase in racist attitudes/ budget cuts to human
rights bodies
Challenges to Organising
Membership – no data on ethnicity collected
Large scale immigration to Ireland – recent (immigration doubled 2004/2008)
Unions are facing difficulties – limited resources
Misconceptions about trade unions
Lack of knowledge of union structures and ways of operating
Fragmentation of workers and workplaces
Vulnerable workers: poorly paid and unregulated sectors/ weak contractual
Agency workers
Language barrier
Fear of employers
Under-developed community support infrastructures
Lack of visibility of migrant workers in union structures
Lack of data on ethnicity of members difficult to assess effectiveness of strategies
Move from passive membership to self-organisation and activism
Good Practice Models
• Organising campaigns in strategic sectors –
significant numbers of mw recruited (Unite and
• Unison – Migrant Workers Project – Immigration
• Involvement through Union Learning/ ESOL
• Bilingual Organisers and cooperation with migrant
organisations, i.e. Migrants Rights Centre (ROI) and
• ICTU Migrant Workers Support Unit
• Translated documents
• Congress guidelines Combating Racism and
Planning for Diversity and “Promoting Equality in
Diversity: Migration-Integration” training toolkit
Campaigns and Collaborations
• SIPTU partnership with Migrants Rights Centre – Mushroom
Workers Support Group – organising the sector resulted in
improving pay and conditions/ Fair Deal for Cleaners and Fair
Hotels campaign
• Campaign to support Filipino fishermen – ICTU, International
Transport Federation, Unison and NICEM
• Agency Workers Directive/ UNITE Same Pay-Same Status
campaign/ SIPTU Agency Workers Together Fighting
• Campaign to Secure the Rights of Domestic Workers Domestic Workers Action Group at Migrants Rights Centre,
ICTU and National Women's Council of Ireland have called on
the Irish Government to commit to ratifying the Convention
ICTU Migrant Workers Support
Established in 2007 (following ICTU research report)
Bi-lingual Migrant Workers Support Officer
Lead on Congress policies affecting migrant workers
Permanent support centre and outreach clinics across NI
Representation of migrant workers (funding by Peace III through
Belfast City Council)
Dedicated advice helpline
Cooperation with trade unions and migrant community
Training and seminars on employment rights and trade unions
 “Your Rights at Work”: pocket-guide in 8 languages
 “ I’m not a Racist, but…”: myth-busting pamphlet