03/09/2012

High Court Decision Provides Employers With A Licence To Exploit - SIPTU

The SIPTU General President, Jack O'Connor, said that he was "shocked and appalled" at the High Court decision that restaurant worker Muhammad Younnis is not entitled to a €91,000 award made by an Employment Rights Officer after he was found to have worked up to 77 hours a week for seven years for less than the minimum wage in the Poppadom restaurant, Newlands Cross, Dublin.

The High Court found that Younnis's contract was invalid because his employer, Amjad Hussein, had failed to renew the work permit.

"The outcome of this case, which involved gross exploitation, is a licence for further exploitation by unscrupulous employers on a scale not seen in Ireland since the seventeenth century," '’Connor said. He welcomed Mr Justice Gerard Hogan's decision to refer what he had found to be unintended consequences in the Employment Permits Act (2003) to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dail and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, as a matter of urgency.

"While I welcome the Judge's concern," O’Connor added that the outcome of the case was to "effectively legitimise exploitation of workers on a level that is worse than slavery, which imposed at least the moral and legal obligations of ownership on an employer. Objectively this High Court decision incentivises employers to break the law themselves in order to avoid meeting their financial obligations to employees.

"I am calling on Mr Bruton and the Government to address this lacuna in the law immediately. While I have no doubt that Mr Younnis and his legal advisors will be studying the decision very carefully with a view to an appeal, this is far too urgent a case and its consequences far too wide ranging to be long fingered in the courts. Given the speed and ruthlessness demonstrated by some irresponsible Irish employers in the past, we are in danger of becoming a haven for even more widespread exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers."

(CD/GK)

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