April 26, 2021
Employers withheld nearly €18m in wages from workers over past decade – Louise O’Reilly TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has called for additional staff and resources to be provided to the Workplace Relations Commission following publication of their annual report, which revealed almost €1.7m in unpaid wages for workers in 2020.

She also outlined how data provided to her shows how the issue of wages being withheld has escalated in the past number of years, with almost €18m being withheld from workers in the past decade. 

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The annual report from the Workplace Relations Commission makes for sober reading.

“Despite being underfunded and under-resourced, the WRC does fantastic work on behalf of workers across this state.

“In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic the WRC carried out 7,687 inspections and managed to recover almost €1.7m in unpaid wages for workers.

 “This shocking data lifts the lid on a rampant and disgusting practice. Any employer who deliberately withholds wages from a worker, or deliberately under pays a worker, should be named, shamed, and punished.

“There is an old saying ‘always pay what you owe and always ask for what you’re owed’, and I am sure these employers would not be shy in letting a customer or business know when they owed them money, yet here we have thousands of them stealing wages off workers.

“Unfortunately, this practice has been rampant across workplaces for decades.

“Data provided to me shows that in the past decade alone nearly €18m in wages was returned to workers after WRC investigations. 

“Indeed, this disgusting practice has been escalating in recent years, with nearly €9m of unpaid wages being recovered for workers in the past three years.

“The withholding of wages is particularly rampant in sectors where women and migrant workers are highly employed – the food and drink, retail, and nursing and childcare sectors.

“Given the WRC is understaffed and underfunded, I would bet any money that if they had more resources to conduct investigations the figure for withheld wages would be closer to €50m. 

“The only way to combat this unscrupulous practice is to empower and fund the WRC to carry out a greater number of investigations across the whole economy.”

  • The table of unpaid wages recovered by the WRC by sector can be viewed here.

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