More than 100 migrant workers and supporters who met in Monaghan yesterday called on the Government, mushroom growers and supermarkets to end the exploitation of workers in the €130 million industry.
The event, organised by the Mushroom Workers Support Group, called for a new culture of compliance and fair treatment in the industry for the workers, 1,200 of whom are based in the Cavan-Monaghan area.
The group, initiated by the Migrant Rights Centre in Ireland, has more than 50 members, most of whom are migrant women from Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, China and Thailand.
US actor Martin Sheen is supporting the campaign and, in a foreword to a document circulated at the meeting, expressed concern at the situation.
"As a long-time ally of migrant farm workers in the United States, I am disturbed by the callous exploitation and mistreatment of migrant farm workers labouring in the Irish mushroom-growing industry," he wrote.
Bill Abom, co-ordinator of the support group, said there were many instances of workers receiving far below the minimum wage and living in very poor accommodation.
"We want this exploitation to stop now and we want everyone involved, including the supermarkets who also have to accept their share of responsibility, to work to this end," he said.
Mr Abom added that the document, drawn up by the group, showed there was intimidation of workers who complained about their working conditions which included low pay, no holidays and sometimes dangerous conditions.
Some workers gave accounts of living in sub-standard accommodation and of their fear of being sacked if they complained about the long hours and low pay.