Head of WRC: Some people in Ireland are working in conditions 'close to slavery'

Oonagh Buckley says some people who have the right to work here are in "incredibly vulnerable situations"

Head of WRC: Some people in Ireland are working in conditions 'close to slavery'

Oonagh Buckley. Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The head of the Workplace Relations Commission says some people are being subjected to slave-like conditions here.

Director General of the WRC, Oonagh Buckley, says exploitation is affecting many in this country.

Earlier this week, a ban preventing asylum seekers from working was formally declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he aims to bring Ireland in line with ‘EU norms’ - in relation to the right to work - by June.

Ms Buckley says that the Labour Inspectorate deals with employment permits, and they will help bring any new policies introduced by the Government into operation.

However, she noted that labour exploitation currently impacts some people who already have the right to work here.

Speaking on On The Record, she observed: "We have people working in Ireland who actually don't need employment permits - they may be nationals of the EU or [the European Economic Area] - who work in incredibly vulnerable situations.

"We find people in conditions that are close to slavery, to be honest - their passport [has been] taken away, [or] they're not getting their rightful pay."

She added: "It happens in Ireland. Does it happen a lot? I don't know. But I have one inspector who solemnly tells me every few months that 'you're only ever around five miles from somebody in effective slavery in Ireland'."

The WRC chief stressed that anyone who finds themselves in a very difficult employment position can make a complaint to her organisation.

She stated: "We will, if we can, help them. They can make a complaint to us, and we will address them, inspect their workplace and so forth. That's quite aside from the employment permit situation: that is actually people who have the right to work in Ireland, but are treated very badly."

You can listen back to the full interview via the podcast below: