TCM Archives > Irish Examiner > 2008/05/20 > Equality ruling favours foreign workers

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 :


Equality ruling favours foreign workers

COMPANIES who employ foreign workers face the prospect of substantial compensation claims after one employer was ordered by the Equality Tribunal to pay ?290,000 to 58 staff because it did not translate work contracts.

Dublin-based Goode Concrete said it will challenge the tribunal’s ruling in favour of its staff, which was published yesterday.

Each of the workers was granted ?5,000 on the grounds their contracts and safety documents were not produced in their own language or translated by an independent party.

This award came to ?290,000 with a further ?37,000 for three employees the tribunal said had suffered from stress and discriminatory treatment.

Orla Goode, the company’s human resources officer, said it would challenge the ruling in the Labour Court. She claimed, if allowed stand, the decision would allow any worker whose contract is not in their home language to make a legitimate discrimination claim.

“On the basis that there are 330,000 foreign nationals working in Ireland whose contracts are more than likely printed in

English, this could cost employers ?1.6 billion.

“And it is not just the cost of any claims, but also the future cost of translators. Russian would be the main language in our company, but we have staff who are able to translate without bringing in somebody specially at a cost,” she said.

Last night, a spokesman for the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) said it was aware of the case. “We are studying the matter, but we are not making any further comment at this stage,” it said.

In its ruling, the tribunal said the firm breached equality legislation by not providing the 58 staff members with documents they could understand.

“Their terms and conditions of employment and safety documentation were not set out in a language which was understandable to each of them or where there is no evidence that these terms and conditions of employment were explained to each of them by a person speaking a language they understood who was appointed by Goode Concrete Limited for this specific purpose,” it said.

Separately, the tribunal rejected 32 claims of harassment and 8 claims of unfair dismissal by the workers after the case was made on their behalf by PC Moore solicitors. The workers had argued they faced summary dismissal if they appeared drunk in work.

In the case of two men, Vladimirs Petrovs and Arvydas Valusis, the tribunal said they had been fired on the basis of their nationality and they were awarded ?10,000 and ?25,000 respectively.

Goode Concrete was also told to pay Aleksanders Petrovs ?2,000 for not telling him the implications of extending his Christmas holidays.

The National Employment Rights Authority said it does not comment on individual cases. However, it said the legislation relating to terms of employment requires bosses to provide written work conditions, but this act makes no specific reference to the language of such documents. 

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