UNISON head of organising, and chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ITUC) Pamela Dooley has launched a new report urging the government to finance targeted support services for migrant workers in the Northern Ireland.
The report launched to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, recommends that challenging racism should be a key criteria for the allocation of public funding to business. It also recommends the commissioning of research on best practices in employing migrant workers.
The report at the same time urges trade unions to continue to actively recruit and organise this key sector of the workforce.
The report further calls for the establishment of a single inspection and employment rights enforcement body.
Speaking at the launch, Ms Dooley said she had worked with migrant workers in UNISON for nearly 10 years. “They have made our society much more diverse and colourful and, in my opinion, we have had an opportunity to open our minds and hearts to many different ways of life,” Ms Dooley said. “Not all people in Northern Ireland think like us and, unfortunately, here we are with another important report that shows that migrant workers continue to face added difficulties in the workplace.
She added: "We all wish it wasn't the case and that the report could just celebrate the achievement of the ICTU migrant workers unit and announce that there is no longer a need for a dedicated migrant workers support project. But this is not where we are. Racism is on the rise, not in decline.
"Every line from the Tory government continues to make it worse: the need to curb the benefits for migrant workers."
Ms Dooley went on to say that "There is no end to statements and measures that imply that migrant workers are a problem for the social fabric of the country and a problem for the economy. Does this not need to be backed up by facts? It would appear that it just needs to make it into the media and that's enough to reinforce division and fuel resentment and racism. The consequences are palpable. They affect our migrant worker members directly and they poison the minds of some of our local members.”
Ms Dooley urged the trade union movement to be vigilant. “The role of the trade union in dealing with racism and discrimination is fundamental.”
She said the report highlighted many issues affecting migrant workers. "Migrant workers often feel that they get the worst shifts, the longest hours, always face issues when trying to book leave and they disproportionally end up in disciplinarians,” Ms Dooley said.
She explained that "fighting racism means challenging governments and supporting organisations that are the voice of those who are marginalised.
Ms Dooley urged all to "speak out and take a stand against racism and xenophobia."