The Prime Time Investigates programme on RTE last night revealed a shocking story of the exploitation of immigrant workers that demands urgent action by the government.
There can be little doubt that a minority of employers are engaging in the shameful exploitation of workers. What was revealed last night was nothing less than a systematic pattern of failure to pay even the minimum wage, provide contracts of employment, honour tax and PRSI regulations and adhere to safety standards.
One of the most disturbing revelations in the programme was the blatant disregard shown by a number of haulage companies for safety regulations which restrict the number of hours and days that a driver can work without a break. Failure to adhere to these regulations involves not simply unfair and unjust abuse of workers, but it also exposes other road users in Ireland and abroad to real danger.
Of course exploitation by some employers is not limited to immigrant workers, as many Irish workers also have to endure similar conditions. We now need far more effective action at government level to stamp these practices out and to ensure that all workers are protected from abuse and exploitation.
There are a number of measures that were promised when the Towards 2016 Agreement was concluded more than three years ago that have still not been implemented. For instance the Employment Law Compliance Bill, which is designed to put the National Employment Rights Authority on a statutory basis was published in March, but nine months later the government has still not started the legislative process. Other promised legislation to regulate the employment agency sector has not even been published and we still do not know when the EU Directive on Agency Workers will be given effect in this country.
While there has been increase in the number of labour inspectors, additional personnel and resources are still required if we are to stamp these sort of practices out and ensure that all workers get fair treatment.