Fisherman who worked over 17 hours a day awarded more than €20,000 compensation after WRC ruling

An Egyptian fisherman who worked over 17 hours a day while at sea has been awarded more than €20,000 compensation.

In a new decision, Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer Eugene Hanly said it was “essential” that fishermen are protected against working excessive hours due to safety risks.

He found that Ali Rezk’s rights under working time and payment of wages legislation were breached while working for trawler owner Sean Doran.

The fisherman (63) told a hearing he worked 17 hours a day at sea and was on call for the remainder when he worked for Mr Doran between December 2016 and August 2019.

He said he was paid for eight hours a day.

The fisherman said no record of his working hours existed so he had to rely on fishing logs.

“I’m glad I took this step and encourage other fishers in a similar position to do something about it,” he said yesterday.

The Workplace Relations Commission heard he had a limited knowledge of English, was unaware of his employment rights and previously worked as an undocumented migrant fisherman.

He saw his work was very precarious while he was undocumented and felt wholly dependent on his employer for “all aspects of his life”.

Mr Doran rejected his claims that he was not paid for the hours he worked, was not compensated for public holidays, and did not get the correct holidays.

He said there were four employees on the boat, and he had a very good knowledge of English.

The employer said the boat did not operate to full throttle and the fish catch was very limited.

He said boredom was a factor due to the small amount of work and the skipper rejected Mr Rezk’s estimation of the hours he worked.

Mr Doran said he was facilitated with his religious practices and food, stopped working for prayers and was given time to watch football matches.

He said it was not a profitable business, but “washed its face”.

On shore, he said Mr Rezk could not work in the shop due to his poor English. He said he worked in a factory for three to six hours but was paid for eight.

He said he worked more than 39 hours some weeks, but some weeks less. Mr Doran said he was not charged for food, and only paid for cigarettes and the Lotto and was provided with non-beer batter food in restaurants. He said there was no work on the boat, except twice a month when nets would be checked and mended, which he said was a morning’s work.

The adjudication officer said organisation of working time legislation requires an employer to maintain records of hours worked so he was obliged to accept the complainant’s evidence.

He said on the balance of probabilities, he worked 77 days at 17 hours per day, and was paid eight hours so was due over €5,364 in addition to a smaller amount for public holidays.

Mr Hanly found his working hours exceeded a maximum of 72 hours a week under organisation of working time regulations.

“I find that this is an industry that is subject to some very challenging weather conditions and the safety of fishermen is of paramount importance,” he said.

“I find that it is essential that fishermen are protected against working excessive hours which may cause them to make errors in their work which could negatively impact on their safety and that of their colleagues.”

He said the employer should pay another €15,000 compensation for breaches of his rights “which is to serve as an effective, dissuasive and proportionate deterrent”.

Mr Rezk also claimed he was not paid in accordance with national minimum wage legislation. Mr Hanly said the claim was not well-founded as he did not seek a written statement of his hourly pay.

Michael O’Brien of the International Transport Workers Federation said there were deficiencies in law that prevented the adjudicator from ruling on the whole period the fisherman was employed.

He said the “cognisable period” unpaid wages can be retrieved is normally six months prior to a complaint being submitted, or 12 months in extenuating circumstances.

“Under the system we have, the odds are stacked against a migrant fisher pursuing justice, let alone keeping their job or ability to stay in this country if they speak up,” he said. “Hence the tendency for cases to be taken after the fisher parts company with the employer.”

Be aware of impersonation

Many colleagues use social media as a marketing tool, or to build their own personal networks. Some of our most active colleagues on social media have reported seeing fraudulent accounts impersonating them online.

Whatever the impersonator’s intent, there are obvious risks posed when an unauthorised person (or even a potentially malicious stranger) assumes your identity online. I encourage you to be vigilant about this – search your firm’s name and your own name periodically for potential impersonators. You can even quickly scan for unauthorised use of your own image or your firm’s logo: Google has published a useful article on how to do this.

If you find an impersonator, no matter how trivial the content, you should act. Social media networks have established quick procedures to report impersonation, while several legal tools are available for protecting your intellectual property and taking down imposter websites.

Search with an image on Google – Computer – Google Search Help

Owners of crumbling Irish homes ‘disgusted’ by compensation plan

Homeowners in Ireland living in houses built with defective blocks that “crumble like Weetabix” say a compensation scheme unveiled by the government will still leave them with devastating bills of up to €80,000 (£60,000).

A long-awaited redress scheme for the estimated 6,000 people living in homes that have to be demolished and rebuilt was unveiled by the government earlier this week. The government says the scheme will cost €2.2bn and means homeowners will bear no upfront costs.

At first it appeared the government had met many of the demands of campaigners representing people whose homes were built with blocks containing too much of the mineral mica, which caused the blocks to crack and crumble.

But after studying the details – in particular the inclusion of a tapering element to the bailout funds – the campaigners condemned the government’s scheme as a cynical attempt to grab positive headlines.

Government funds for rebuilding are tapered from €145 a square foot for the first 1,000 square feet (93 sq metres) to €110 a square foot for the next 1,000 and €100 a square foot thereafter. Campaigners said this leaves major shortfalls for those whose homes need demolishing and rebuilding.

“Just for the contractor alone this is going to cost me €79,000,” said Angeline Ruddy, acting deputy principal of a school in Carndonagh in Donegal, who lives in a house that will have to be demolished. “If I went to the bank looking for that they are going to laugh at me because my collateral is a house full of holes that is crumbling.

“I am absolutely disgusted,” she said. “I cannot believe that after all these years trying to get redress, that the government has decided to treat us like this. This is shocking behaviour.

She said she feels betrayed by her local MP, the agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue. “I do not know how he can drive through the town,” she said. “He knows the pain people are suffering yet doesn’t seem to take any responsibility at government level.”

Across the town and hinterlands where Ruddy lives, houses are riddled with cracks and falling down owing to defective building blocks containing mica.

The scheme announced two days ago was the culmination of a 10-year campaign by homeowners who discovered cracks in their new-build houses in the years after moving in.

Many initially blamed the builders but it gradually emerged that the building blocks contained too much mica.

The scheme was billed as the solution, with compensation of up to €420,000 a home.

Paddy Diver, spokesperson for the Mica Action Group, said: “The only way this is going to be fixed is if the government brings in the housing authority to fix our houses.”

He accused the government of acting in “bad faith” and said the sliding scale element was sprung on them and was not part of the consultation process.

Campaigners are now talking about bringing a new protest “to close the streets of Dublin before Christmas” with possible support from lorry drivers and farmers.

Sinn Féin MP Pearse Doherty, who is from Donegal, called on the government to scrap the sliding-scale plan and “go back to the drawing board”. He said the scheme was “no use to families”.

Ruddy said the impact of the mica scandal on the mental health of both parents and children at her school was evident.

“I had one child come up to me yesterday to say ‘my daddy is in a dark place’. I do not know where we go from here,” she said.