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Migrant rights are workers rights!

The issues around the maltreatment and oppression of migrant workers go far deeper than one or two ruthless employers or a few groups of workers with hard luck stories. They deserve a much more strenuous response than a statement in the Dail, calls for the government to act, or liberal sighs around the dinner table.  The issues around the maltreatment of migrant workers are global questions of democratic rights denied to every migrant worker in Ireland. The oppression of the migrants is also a class question, extending beyond that group to threaten the rights of every worker in Ireland.

• It’s not possible to pay one worker at a rate of ?1.00 without making this the lowest range in the pay scale for everyone.
• It’s not possible to tie migrant worker in bondage to an employer who holds their employment card in their hands without giving these employers very substantial leverage over the employment conditions of all workers.
• It’s not possible to set up specialist hit squads to arbitrarily arrest and deport migrants and tear families apart without expecting a growing arrogance and brutality from the state towards all working people.

The only answer to this oppression is solidarity – unity of all the workers to defend their collective rights.

Anyone seeking to exercise that solidarity has to face up to the fact that they are facing a conspiracy. 

• That conspiracy involves the Government.  Any country that gives employment rights over to the control of the employer is planning extortion.  When government ignores specific warnings about individual firms it is because they are fully aware of the extortion already. In the GAMA case most of their contracts involve public funds.
• The conspiracy involves the Bosses.  It is no accident that most cases of extortion are fronted by a dummy company involving local capital.  The quick way out is to deny any involvement and sack the workers who have been victimised.
• The conspiracy involves the union leaderships, who boast of their partnership with the bosses and a corrupt government.  They have known about these scams for years and are complicit in them, collecting dues from migrant workers in sweetheart deals where they accept lower rates of pay and conditions for the workers and guarantee that there will be no protest from the unions. Even when these cases hit the headlines the best they can do is deliver some compensation – there is never any change in the corrupt system.

Solidarity will not be easy.  What is already clear is that it will come from the bottom up, not from a corrupt bureaucracy in bed with the bosses.


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