The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) has described as "appalling" the treatment of workers at the Paris Bakery, a highly acclaimed restaurant on Dublin's Moore Street.
Staff and former staff of the bakery spent a second day today protesting outside the premises over what they claim is a total of €35,000 in wages owed to them.
The bakery was unexpectedly closed yesterday due to what the manager said was a problem with the electricity.
Another building nearby also appeared to have been affected by a fault.
About 20 staff and former staff engaged in a planned protest outside the restaurant demanding what they said were wages owed for several months. Some said they were owed as much as €3,000.
The more recent of the employees included people from Romania, France and Venezuela.
Megret Mael, a French national who had just arrived in Ireland to improve his English, was sleeping in a room over the bakery because he had no money and had not been paid, he said.
“I have nothing and now I have to sleep here for four or five days now.”
Mr Mael said he was owed €600 for a month’s work.
Several of the staff also claimed they had worked between 50 and 70 hours per week for a flat rate of pay.
Matilde Naranjo from Venezuela had worked there for two months from February to April but had been in Ireland for two years.
She had only been paid for one week’s work, she said.
She said she had come every week asking for her money but had not yet been paid.
She had spoken to colleagues and former colleagues and they had agreed to go to the shop yesterday together.
“It is the only way because everyone came by their own and they always have a different excuse for each one (about why they could not pay).”
Pastry chef Inna Kovalske said she had not been paid in about six weeks and that she was being told “maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after tomorrow”.
“Anyway it is bad treatment for staff,” she said.
“I just want to get my money. Because nobody knows if they will close or not close - we have no information. They said they will move somewhere but until now we don’t know if it is true or not true.”
I loved the job. I like the work and I can work very hard. We don’t want to be fighting it but we have no choice,” Ms Kovalske said.
The manager could not be contacted for comment today.
Ruth Savill, one of the Paris Bakery's two listed directors, told The Irish Times when contacted today she had not had any involvement with the business for the past six months.
Her co-director, Yannick Forel, could not be contacted for comment either today (Thursday) or yesterday.
Mr Forel, however, is understood to have spoken with some of the staff yesterday.
Gráinne O’Toole of MRCI said: “This is a particularly appalling case. Staff worked on without wages for weeks, told repeatedly that they would be paid soon.
“They have been waiting so long to be paid that many have given up and gone home, but the remaining 20 have calculated that together they are owed over €35,000.”
The organisation sought immediate payment of the unpaid wages and said it had sought legal advice for the workers.
Billy Wall, general secretary of the Operative Plasterers' and Allied Trades' Society of Ireland, who is representing one of the staff members, said the workers have been living in hope of being paid.
He said to not pay them “is disgraceful and casts a bad name on Ireland”.
The acclaimed bakery at 18-19 Moore Street had been due to leave the premises in June because the landlord had indicated it would not renew the lease. It had advised the owners to seek new premises.
They have said they cannot afford to relocate and would instead close the business.
Developer Joe O'Reilly's Chartered Land was granted permission in 2010 for a 2.7 hectare shopping development on a site stretching from the former Carlton cinema on O'Connell Street to Moore Street.
But no construction has started and the lands are part of the Nama portfolio.
No construction has started and the Moore Street lands on which Chartered Land has permission to build. The site now forms part of Nama’s portfolio of loans.
The proposed development includes numbers 14 to 17 Moore Street which were declared a national monument because of their use in the 1916 Rising.