Organising for change and equality: Mushroom workers in Ireland

Irish Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) affiliated to the national centre ICTU and the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) empower hundreds of migrant women in forced labour on mushroom farms. Women were working in extremely bad conditions, were paid €4 per hour and had no time off to cash cheques or to buy food. SIPTU and MRCI united workers to change slavery like working conditions.

Between February and September 2010 almost 1300 mushroom workers participated in collective activities and more than 700 attended group meetings in union offices, on the farms and in each others’ homes. More than 500 workers took collective action to directly challenge their management about exploitation and concerns with the conditions of employment. Mushroom pickers have won the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Euro in unpaid wages.

440 workers are now receiving proper pay that was previously withheld by employers, better conditions and are able to meet with the union at their workplace. Now, a Registered Employment Agreement clearly sets out terms and conditions, rates of pay, holiday entitlements and sick pay for the industry. “Everything changed with SIPTU...We don’t have this fear as we used to. We feel free.” said Marija from Latvia