Part Of The Family



From top: The 2015 launch of the Labour of Love campaign, an initiative of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and MRCI’s Domestic Workers Action Group calling for the protection of au pairs’ employment rights in Ireland’ Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte; Ruth Coppinger with her daughter Sarah at the Dublin West coun centre during the last General Election.

This morning.

On Newstalk Breakfast, presenter Shane Coleman spoke to Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger – in light of Ms Rabbitte’s proposed bill concerning au pairs.

The proposed bill comes after the Workplace Relations Commission, in March of this year, awarded €9,229 to a Spanish woman who was paid €100 a week, plus board, for between 30 and 60 hours of work per week, during her employment with an Irish family between August 2014 and January 2015.

The woman claimed she had been exploited by the family.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland hailed the decision as a landmark ruling.

From their discussion…

Shane Coleman: “The legislation that is bring brought forward by Fianna Fáil, aiming to offer more protection to au pairs. It would see au pairs on cultural exchanges in Ireland, limited ot 30 hours of work a week. They’d get free lodging and pocket money. It’s being debated in the Dáil at the moment. We’re joined on the line by, or we’re join in the studio by Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, spokesperson for children and youth affairs, and also on the line by Ruth Coppinger, TD for Dublin West, for the Anti-Austerity Alliance. Anne Rabbitte if I could just start with you first. What exactly are you proposing and how will it protect au pairs?”

Anne Rabbitte: “Well the bill that I have brought before the Chamber is to bring about legal clarity because at this present moment in Ireland we don’t have a definition for au pairs and this all stems from the fact that the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] ruling in March 2016 where an au pair payment was paid, where a case was brought before it where in actual fact an au pair said she had worked X number of hours and she needed, the WRC claimed that an au pair was actually classified as a worker. And, in actual fact, it has actually put 20,000 families at risk. So, this is where it all stems from.”

Coleman: “OK. So, you’re proposing a certain number of hours per week, a certain kind of time off, free lodging and a bit of pocket money?”

Rabbitte: “All right. Exactly the nature of the bill. One was to bring clarity in definition, secondly was to bring actually, it’s a cultural education exchange and in lieu of that then it was for a maximum 30 hours a week and it was also to help out with light chores and to help out with the children, that was it. It’s a traditional thing that has gone on here for a long number of years. In actual fact, this has been going on the last 40 years and has never been legislated for. And in actual fact it probably wouldn’t have been legislated for only for what has happened in March 2016.”

Coleman: “OK, let’s bring in Ruth Coppinger. Ruth, that sounds like a sensible measure or do you disagree?”

Ruth Coppinger: “The bill is totally regressive, would take away much fought for workers’ rights which is what it was attempting to do, which was to revert the ruling that au pairs, they’re not au pairs. Let’s dispense with this idea that au pairs exist in the traditional context. Most so-called au pairs are childcare workers, they’re women, over 30, many of them are mothers themselves, trying to, very well-educated and really don’t need the cultural or educational exchange. This bill is an attempt to give a cover to potential exploitation of these workers in people’s homes, giving a cover of cultural exchange. It was roundly rejected by every single party in the Dáil. And I’m really mystified as to how it even reached the Dáil floor. Because if 20,000 families are relying on so-called au pairs. Well then it actually just contradicts the claim that these people are there for cultural exchange. What these 20,000 families are relying on is childcare workers. And what it points up: is that we need proper subsidised, affordable childcare in this country.”

Coleman: “OK. All right.”

Coppinger: “We do not need to exploit people as the Migrant Rights Centre said…”

Coleman: “OK. I want to bring Anne Rabbitte back in there. Anne…”

Rabbitte: “Actually Ruth clearly does not understand where I’m coming from. In actual fact, where I’m coming from, is 20,000 families who in actual fact provide the opportunity for a cultural exchange. I am not looking at targeting or going against the migrants’ rights or I’m not going against anything that the 30s or 40s age bracket. What I’m looking at is people who want to come on a gap year, on a cultural educational exchange to Ireland, we have done it in Ireland for a long number of years. We actually send our children abroad doing it. So, in actual fact, it’s to facilitate this whereas families can embrace children, bring them in, give them protection. In actual fact, what this bill is about, is about protection. Protection for the au pair, protection for the host family and it’s improving going through targeted agencies. Because, at this moment in time, people are actually booking au pairs, so-called au pairs, off websites. What I want to do is regularise it completely so we are providing the cultural, educational exchange. ”

Coleman: “OK. Ruth Coppinger. If there’s credited agencies there dealing with this, well then you won’t have women over 30, who have children, coming here and getting paid peanuts.”

Coppinger: “But that’s not the reality. What she’s talking about is a fiction. The reality is this. First of all, in her bill, in her own bill, she talks about 30 hours work, which is practically a full-time job, for pocket money. The words ‘help’ are used. I find this incredibly sexist, that any labour that women provide is help and it’s devalued and shouldn’t be properly compensated, it should be. The idea of… it’s peddling a dangerous myth that au pairs are mainly students on a gap year, having a bit of craic, learning English from their host family. The evidence is otherwise. That picture is gone, it’s gone out the window with The Sound of Music or whatever else. The reality now is au pairs are not au pairs. They’re actually older women, most of them are from Brazil, 98% of them are over 30, and let’s stop insulting these workers, many of them are being exploited…”

Coleman: “Just before I bring Anne back in, just, my point to you, at the start of that question was, if you have a credited agency, doesn’t that get over that issue of people being brought in from, who are over 30, then would be actually students who are genuinely on a gap year.”

Coppinger: “No because those agencies have been shown to be largely bogus. What we would be overturning here, by the way with this bill, would be a practice that’s now being acknowledged by the Department of Labour or by the Department of Children, that these are workers and that they’re entitled to at least the minimum wage. And what I’d say is this: if there are families who really want to participate in this is pay the person at least the minimum wage. And, in fact, I think there should be paying them a lot more. I wouldn’t pay a babysitter to mind my child and pay them less than the minimum wage. So what’s the problem here? And I think what we’re seeing is, like Fianna Fáil, it’s a bit rich, they cut public sector pay, they’re telling us that …”

Coleman: “Just stick with the issue, just stick with the issue…”

Coppinger: “No, it’s extremely relevant because last…”

Coleman: “It’s not actually…”

Coppinger: “They were is. Because in the debate last night, which I participated in, another TD from Fianna Fáil said there was public sector workers who were reliant now on au pairs. The reason they’re reliant on au pairs is that they’ve had their pay cut and there’s no affordable childcare.

Coleman: “Let Anne Rabbitte come back in..”

Rabbitte: “Well actually last night, in the Dáil, Bríd Smith, Maureen O’Sullivan, Fiona O’Loughlin, all had a fabulous experience, believe it or not, as being au pairs themselves…”

Coleman: “OK [to Coppinger], just let her [Rabbitte] answer the question, then you can come back in…”

Rabbitte: “In actual fact there was members right across the Dáil last night who actually understand the essence of my bill and exactly where I was coming from.”

Coleman: “Sorry, but doesn’t Ruth Coppinger make a good point? You pay your babysitter €8/€9/€10 an hour, roughly around the minimum wage…”

Rabbitte: “Absolutely.”

Coleman: “Shouldn’t it be the same for au pairs?”

Rabbitte: “Well, I think what we need to…as the debate unfolded last night, something became very clear from it and it was from Minister Breen. What in actual fact is board and lodgings is allowed for au pairs and, at this moment in time, it actually has a rating of only €54. And Deputy Butler said last night, she said in actual fact she’s after putting the kids through college and she certainly couldn’t put them through for €54, board and lodgings, for a week. So what Minister Breen said was, that needs to be looked at. The allowance for board and lodgings, if that was increased up, to the market rate. Drumcondra, at this moment in time, is €180 to stay for a week if you went into board and lodgings so if you were to do it, on that basis, absolutely, then we could regularise the au pair market and that actually would bring it inside then, you could actually have the pocket money, as I call it, because I was trying to keep within the labour terminology completely, to keep it in what it was. So in actual fact, you’d work out at the €10 an hour, for the 30 hours in the week.”

Coleman: “Ruth Coppinger, if it could be guaranteed that it was genuinely the case that it was students, people under the age of 23 or 24, who were coming here for a short fixed period of time, as part of a gap year, would you be amenable to that? Would you be happy with that?”

Coppinger: The difficulty is that this is now being used it would seem by increasingly by people because they can’t actually access affordable childcare. But it’s also allowing people exploit. We need to recognise these people as workers. As I said, you wouldn’t hire a babysitter for €5…”

Coleman: “I know, you made that point but the question I asked you…”

Talk over each other

Coppinger: “But Anne is using the word ‘pocket money’. Anyone over 16, who goes out to work, is a worker. And it’s an employee-employer relationship. I don’t see what the problem is if people are paying their taxes and it’s all above board. I’ve no problem with any cultural exchanges, but let’s be honest about what’s going on here. There’s real expatiation, there were two so-called au pairs in the public gallery [of the Dáil] last night. One of them works 35 hours a week, she gets no food from the family at the weekend, and gets €110 [a week] and often you’re talking about bed and board there, there’s actually an invasion of a lot of these workers’ privacy. We’ve had, you know, people being admonished for talking on the phone in their room to their boyfriends and Skype. You know, there is a real dangerous situation here where you’re in somebody’s house and you’re open to being exploited.”

Coleman: “OK, Anne Rabbitte.”

Rabbitte:My fear is that if this bill doesn’t go through or we don’t get support, or we don’t get it to a committee stage, then in actual fact, we’re going to drive it right into the black market. That’s…”

Coppinger: “Why do people say that?”

Rabbitte: “That’s what I’m seeing it going. Because there’s 20,000 families. In actual fact, are we saying the 20,000 families there, who use au pairs, should be criminalised? That’s what we’re actually saying?

Coppinger:No, we’re saying they should just pay the minimum wage, at least. But actually these women are doing…Let’s dispense with the light housework. Anyone who has ever minded a child, anyone who has ever done laundry or housework, it’s not, it’s heavy work. It’s physically exerting and it’s mentally…”

Rabbitte: “Well, Ruth, I should know all about it. I’m a mother myself.”

Coppinger: “Yeah, so am I, Anne…”

Rabbitte: “And in actual fact, that’s exactly where I’m coming from with this bill to be quite fair with myself Ruth. That in actual fact, I didn’t set out to have a go at the migrants’ rights. I didn’t have set out, in actual fact, to undo the work of the WRC. What I set out to do with this bill was, in actual fact, was to protect the 20,000 families who actually feel like criminals at this moment in time. Who are facing into September and, in actual fact, yes, they want to create a work-life balance, that’s where that bill comes from, Ruth.”

Listen back in full here.

Au pair bill ‘would create migrant underclass’ (The Times of Ireland, Liz Farsaci)

Pic: Orla Kennedy


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42 thoughts on “Part Of The Family

  1. postmanpat

    20000 families ARE criminals. Why shouldn’t they “feel” like criminals for exploiting a live-in nanny working 100 hours+ a week and dropping them a lousy €100?

  2. Tish Mahorey

    Lots of Filipino women exploited in Dublin 4 and 6 minding precious Sebastians, Charlottes, Fiachras, Fiodhnas of contrived double-barreled parents with cars way too big for their needs parked on crunchy gravel in driveways too small for them, resulting in almost no crunching sound which is the only reason they got it.

    And they buy their meat and fish in Fallon and Byrne because they think that means quality. Ha ha.

    And then they use the Fallon and Byrne bags EVERYWHERE else so we know they don’t JUST shop in Aldi or Lidl.

    *I’m writing a book.*

      1. Owen C

        Its also incredibly wrong. Aldi and Lidl in middle class areas are heaving with local shoppers. No one shops in Fallon & Byrne, its a pain in the bum to get to. Donnybrook Fair is much more likely. Needs to do a lot more research.

      2. Tish Mahorey

        Anyone can write that stuff. It’s merely social observation. It’s not literature.

        Oh I just don’t care whether someone like you finds me funny or not.

        1. Billy Kremlin

          But …… YOU DO……. Don’t you ?

          Yes you do.

          How’s the big important company that employs lots of plebs working out for you?

      1. Tish Mahorey

        That mail order baby trade is akin to human trafficking. Rich people encourage disgusting trade in human capital.

        Many war refugees have gone missing in Egypt, murdered for their organs which are sold to order to wealthy Asians and Arabs. The same rich scumbags that hang out in Dubai and the Med resorts in the summer. And of course their doctors in Geneva and London arrange the procurement and perform the surgery in private clinics.

          1. Owen C

            I tried to get little Gwendaline a babysitter and ended up buying two kidneys and a spare lung. Easy mistake to make.

          2. Tish Mahorey

            Sure keep going Owen and you’ll have enough parts to make a servant, off the books.

  3. Harry Molloy

    Au Pair arrangement are generally mutually beneficial, certainly any of the ones I observed which is usually very young Spanish or Italian girls looking to improve their English. Protections to ensure there is no abuse are to be welcomed.

  4. MayJay

    “Because if 20,000 families are relying on so-called au pairs. Well then it actually just contradicts the claim that these people are there for cultural exchange. What these 20,000 families are relying on is childcare workers.”

    Absolutely this. Work should accrue pay, like in any sector. If families can’t afford childcare, we need to look at the root cause. Copper-fastening exploitation is not a solution.

  5. scottser

    Coppinger is spot on, childcare needs to be affordable and accessible. Au pairs work out much cheaper than a creche, which is a serious anomaly. And child minding is hard work, and should be properly paid.

  6. Owen C

    30 hours at €9 an hour = 270 a week = ~1100 a month.

    500 a month for accommodation
    250 a month for food/utilities usage etc

    Many au pairs have free use of a car etc during the day too. Its not difficult to get the cash consideration down to a fairly nominal amount.

  7. Eamonn Clancy

    Au pairs are not workers. Free gaff, food, a few bob and they get to live in this kip of a country for a while. Keep her going Patsy.

  8. Tish Mahorey

    “Many au pairs have free use of a car etc during the day too”

    Eh.. they use it carry the brats from creche to baby tennis. It’s not like they’re off to Wicklow for the day with their au pair mates.

    1. Owen C

      They drop kids to creche at 8am. They pick them up after lunch. They can use the car for their own purposes in between.

      1. Tish Mahorey

        They’re more than likely back to the house to clean and hoover or out doing the shopping.

        Do you think Barrister Finn and Boutique owner Emma are going to have her idle for one second? They’ll squeeze every bit of worth out of her.

        1. Owen C

          do u actually know anyone with an au pair, or do you just plagarise the Paul Howard stuff? I do know people who have them. They do basic housework directly related to the kids (ie washing their clothes, cleaning up their rooms, making their food). They generally don’t do housework outside of that. They usually have a good few hours free every day to do whatever they want (including the language classes most of them come over for in the first place).

          1. Tish Mahorey

            Yes Owen, believe it or not I actually do move in those circles and know plenty of them. I also know some who exploit their au pairs and treat them like slaves. And it’s always those with the most money who are the tightest and the meanest.

        2. Cormac

          Your seem to rely, very heavily, on fictional situations you’ve created yourself. Do you think that constitutes an argument?

        3. Harry Molloy

          the couples I know who have had them are two gardai, and any garda and any nurse.
          and godsend arrangement when working unsocial hours.
          any of the girls they’ve had have been very happy.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      I am, at this moment, trying to locate photographic evidence of this highly credible claim. Wish me luck, everybody.

  9. Anne

    I worked as an au-pair once for 2 days.. I swiftly decided a career change was on the cards 48 hours in.

    It was for a wealthy family in the U.S…same language, sorta.. no real cultural exchange, except for skivvying away all day from half 6 in the morning, until they got home after their evening out at around midnight. Great cultural exchange altogether. You get to see how the rich live, while they exploit you as much as they can.

    The wife left a list of ‘light duties’ that I had to get done during the day, after I got the kids up and ready for school and dropped them off (there were ensuites in every room and a few bathrooms, but they had to shower in my room for some reason).

    The light duties involved scrubbing down her gym equipment, scrubbing down her shower in her personal gym with a toothbrush, putting on a few washes, putting them in the dryer, folding the clothes, mopping the floors, putting on dinner.. collecting the kids, dropping them off to activities, washing up after dinner.. hoovering around.. dusting.. finally at about 7 in the evening I sat down to watch a movie – with the kids, while the two lords of the manor fupped off out to a fancy restaurant.

    2nd day I had enough and had my bags packed up and was ready to go when your wan arrived home from her part time job. She was sooo disappointed and just didn’t see it coming and was sooo sorry it didn’t work out, in that big phoney way the yanks carry on.

    A few years later, I happened to sit down in a TGI Fridays and who’s my waitress? Lord of the manor herself. The husband’s business went bust and they got divorced. I felt a bit sorry for her after she got me my 4th refill of my drink. The refills were free like..

    Minimum wage is the least people should be paid for this work. And get yourself a cleaner if you want your house cleaned.

    1. J

      “there were ensuites in every room and a few bathrooms, but they had to shower in my room for some reason”
      Sounds like they wanted you to engage in more than just a few “light duties”, Anne. Am so happy that it all worked out for you and that schadenfreude was served up in a big fat burgerbun .

      1. Anne

        The kids had to shower in my room I meant..

        Yeah.. a nice serving of schadenfreude with a side order of fries.. :)

        It worked out for me because I wasn’t willing to put up with it.
        But it is nice when you get to witness a bit of karma..

    2. Tish Mahorey

      The rich want heirs as part of their vanity disorder but they don’t want to raise them because requires effort and love. And it doesn’t matter if they grow up to be obnoxious and sociopathic because they’re rich and don’t care what people think of them. They use money to get what they want instead of negotiation and effort.

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