Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist , newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI



Socialist Party exposes slave labour scandal

Building workers paid Euro2-Euro3 per hour

by Stephen Boyd

SOCIALIST PARTY TD, Joe Higgins ex-posed a major scandal, when he spoke in the Dail about the gross exploitation of immigrant workers in the construction industry.

He told the Dail "This company imports workers...controls their passports and work permits, accommodates them in company barracks...pays unskilled construction workers between e2 and e3 per hour, basic pay and skilled workers somewhere over e3 an hour...The instigator is Turkish based GAMA Construction Ireland Limited", (see article page 11).

Councillor Mick Murphy (Socialist Party) has met with groups of GAMA workers and he told The Socialist "The workers I spoke to are extremely frightened of the consequences if it was found out that they had given information on GAMA. But they feel hard done by and understand that they are owed large amounts of money, and they are determined to get what is rightfully theirs".

Many of the workers in GAMA are members of SIPTU. The leaders of SIPTU have done virtually nothing to expose or fight for decent wages for these workers. If it wasn't for the Socialist Party this scandal would never have been exposed.

Joe Higgins and Mick Murphy met with officials of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. As a result of Joe Higgins' intervention in the Dail and the work of the Socialist Party, a full investigation into GAMA Construction Ireland Ltd. is to be carried out.

At a time of the biggest building boom in the history of the state, thousands of immigrant workers are being exploited. Some of these workers are being paid seven times less than the Registered Employment Agreement Rates and more than three times less than the minimum wage! Yet these workers are terrified to speak out in case they are sent home by the employers who control their work permits.

This exploitation is symptomatic of an ethos that permeates throughout the political and business establishment. There is a general assault on the wages and working conditions of many workers.

An Post management backed up by the government are attempting to break the postal unions in order to drive home their agenda of bringing in "yellow pack" wages and conditions. It is this same anti-worker agenda that the government is trying to force on workers in Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, and CIE.

Instead of organising workers to take on and fight the exploitation of immigrant labour or to defend the wages and conditions of workers in the public or private sectors, the union leaders are still scandalously committed to "social partnership".

The Socialist Party believes that we need to reclaim and transform the trade unions into democratic fighting organisations committed to defending workers' rights and conditions.

The Socialist Party is fully committed to fighting for workers' rights, and to assisting exploited workers in their fight for justice. We are also committed to getting rid of the system that is at the root cause of this exploitation and poverty in society - capitalism.

Joe Higgins exposes 'bonded labour'

On 8 February Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins questioned Bertie Ahern about the plight of Turkish workers employed in Ireland by the multinational construction company GAMA. This company has received numerous state funded construction contracts and is engaged in super-exploitation of its Turkish workforce, and this exploitation is being ignored by the government.

Joe Higgins: "I wish to raise, in particular, one major scandal of immigrant worker exploitation of massive proportions. There is a major foreign-based multinational construction company employing approximately 10,000 people, 2,000 approximately in this state, which has secured massive local authority and state contracts here. This company imports workers from their home base, who do not speak English, controls their passports and work permits, accommodates them often in company barracks, demands an extent of hours worked that can only be called grotesque and, incredibly, pays unskilled construction workers betweenEuro2 and Euro3 per hour, basic pay and skilled workers somewhere over Euro3 an hour. In short, this is a modern version of bonded labour. The instigator is Turkish based Gama Construction Ireland Limited.

The national minimum wage is Euro7 an hour. The registered employment agreement for the lowest paid operative in construction is Euro12.96 an hour. This case is a national scandal financed by extensive public funding. I call on the Taoiseach to ask the Minister and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as a matter of priority, to order an immediate investigation into Gama Construction and its pay and work practices. Will its records be demanded? Will the Taoiseach ensure that interviews are conducted with workers out of the way of company pressure? Will he ensure the Department sees that no worker is victimised as a result of this investigation and if Gama Construction should act to send workers home, a method used by these companies, those workers are sheltered and protected?"



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