Niall Buckley is an Irish barrister and college lecturer with a long-standing interest in human rights and social justice. Together with a group of Irish lawyers he set up WorkFair in early 2008, an initiative directed at combating labour exploitation of migrant workers.
The profile of the Irish labour force has changed beyond recognition over the last fifteen years. Many recently arrived immigrants are especially vulnerable to exploitation, bereft of the usual community and social support structures and working in under-regulated sectors. Successful integration and protection of employment rights represents a real challenge.
WorkFair responded to a perceived lack of access to the legal system amongst migrant workers, delivering a drop-in, voluntary employment law advice service and providing representation where appropriate. WorkFair hoped to act as a catalyst, promoting the attainability of labour rights amongst members of ethnic communities in Ireland and generating confidence in the Irish justice system.
Workfair was featured in the handbook on Immigration and Asylum in Ireland of 2007. It operated a fortnightly free drop-in advice clinic staffed by practicing barristers. Workfair also offered legal representation in relation to employment issues before the Rights Commissioner, Employment Appeals Tribunal, Equality Authority and ordinary courts.
A migrant-dedicated employment law advice and representation service could meet a real legal need and be a strong gesture of social inclusion and integration for persons within the immigrant community.