Large migrant earnings gap must be wake up call to for strong collective bargaining and union rights

Senator Marie Sherlock
19 January 2023

Responding to figures published by the ESRI today showing a very large migrant earnings gap of 22%, Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock has said the figures must be a wake up call to Government and that we need to see comprehensive union recognition and collective bargaining rights in this country.

If Government has a genuine commitment to equality and in particular to gender equality, it is vital that they legislate, said Sherlock.

Senator Sherlock said:

“This earnings gap should come as no surprise. Almost 30% all of migrant workers are employed in sectors such as hospitality, retail and support services. These are low paid sectors made up of a large number of very small employments and with many employers hostile to trade unions.

“The double earnings penalty for migrant women workers is particularly stark with an average earnings gap of 30% between migrant women and Irish men.

“This report is very timely in the context of the EU Directive on adequate minimum wages which was approved by EU Council last autumn and which the Irish government committed to transposing by the end of this year.

“If the intent and full detail of the directive is transposed, legislation will be put in place that will have the effect of broadening collective bargaining coverage and crucially enabling trade unions to get on with the work of organising workers so that workers can collectively negotiate for better and more sustainable terms and conditions.

“The report today also highlighted key deficits in our education and qualification system with regards to recognition of overseas qualifications which must be looked at. We also know from the current experience of migrants coming to Ireland that key recommendations of the 2017 Migrant Integration strategy with regard the availability of language classes have not been fully delivered upon.

“Importantly, Government can also use its very large public procurement budget to ensure better working conditions among the companies providing the wide range of goods and services that are procured by the agencies of the State.

“Every worker in this country has a right to decent working conditions and to not be discriminated against. Despite anti discrimination laws on Ireland’s statute books, we know that labour market discrimination remains a feature in Irish workplaces. It’s though education, access to qualification recognition, transparency with pay and promotion and the power to negotiate collectively can this be stamped out.”

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