Irish trade unions seek better deal for migrant nannies

The Irish government and trade unions have become involved in the plight of foreign nannies and domestic staff in Irish households regarding national pay increases and working conditions.

New rules on working hours, holidays and privacy for immigrant domestic staff are being demanded by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The union feels that there is exploitation of domestic immigrant labour, and employers are protected from laws which prohibit labour inspectors entering private homes and investigating working conditions.

The ICTU proposal to better conditions for the immigrant workers is to set up a joint labour committee, they would then be responsible for setting pay deals above minimum wage for low paid staff, and imposing minimum work condition requirements.

JLC agreements already cover 20 sectors of the Irish economy. The JLC for domestic services would be registered in the Labour Court, and would be responsible for negotiations between unions and employers.

The government has its own idea how to protect migrant staff in the sector.

They propose to implement the use of employment permits. Families seeking work permits for domestic staff would be asked to agree to a labour inspector resolving any disputes. The family would also be asked to sign a voluntary code of conduct stipulating time off, holidays and rights of privacy.

The Dublin based Migrants Rights Centre has been working with ICTU in preparing a voluntary code of conduct for those hiring domestic staff, as well as working on the case for a JLC.

There are more than 1,000 migrant women employed in the domestic service in Ireland, and this is a conservative figure said MRC spokesperson Delphine O'Keefe.

In our study, pay variations differ from one woman working 80 hours a week for just 112 euros, while another was paid 350 euros for a 40 hour week, the spokeperson said.

The majority of migrant domestic service workers are women from the Philippines, Ukraine, Latvia, Malaysia and Zimbabwe.