Workers protest at Emirates embassy

Domestic workers allege breaches of Irish labour laws


About 30 protesters gathered at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Dublin yesterday afternoon claiming the embassy was using diplomatic immunity to avoid compliance with Irish labour laws.

Members of the Domestic Workers Action Group said they had chosen International Domestic Workers’ Day in a bid to embarrass the mission.

Chanting slogans calling for justice for migrant workers, the protesters waved placards and gathered at the gates of the embassy, while being watched by a small contingent of gardaí.

Nobody from the embassy came out to talk to the protesters, who also said there was an “urgent need” for the Irish Government to create protocols to deal with worker complaints where the employer was entitled to claim diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity
Group co-ordinator Aoife Smith alleged two female domestic workers at the embassy had sought to have their conditions of employment heard by a rights commissioner. But the embassy had invoked its diplomatic immunity, and refused to engage with the process.

She said the women were employed at the ambassador’s private residence and had lodged formal complaints with the Labour Relations Commission in May. These included alleged breaches of the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Organisation of Working Time Act and the Minimum Wage Act, she said.

Ms Smith said the rights commissioner was considering the embassy’s response. The Government had been aware migrant workers were in legal difficulty since 2009 when her group raised the issue of staff conditions at the South African embassy.

She said the situation was complex, involving the departments of Social Protection, Justice and Foreign Affairs but that four years “should be long enough to put some protocol in place”. Many EU states already had such agreements with foreign missions in place.

A spokesman for the embassy said he would have to consult his superiors before responding. He said this was not likely until today.

Decent work
International Domestic Workers’ Day marks the anniversary of the International Labour Organisation Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Irish Government voted in favour of the convention in 2011 but it has not yet been ratified in Ireland.