Present everywhere on the streets as take-away baristas and bike delivery workers, but nearly invisible everywhere else in our society: the media, the politics, even our trade unions.
Brazilian students study here on short-term work-study ‘Stamp 2’ visas which allow them the barest employment permissions. This forces many to work beyond their permissions in order to stay in expensive rented accommodation for the profit of local and international landlords.
For years they save and plan for their once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad. Most will never practically afford to return to Dublin again. After arriving, if these students leave today, they risk their life’s savings.
Most Brazilians who come here have full university educations and specialized work experience. They are the youngest migrant nationality in Ireland, most in their 20s and 30s. They are busy – over 50% are employed. Typically they work in low-wage precarious jobs. Sometimes they will work two or three ‘essential’ jobs: home care assistants, contract cleaning staff, delivery workers.
60% of the 10,000+ Brazilian nationals (many who hold dual citizenship with an EU country) live in and around Dublin.
Brazilians and all students who are on a six-month do have a right to vote in the local elections – but that’s only every 5 years. Most visas stays are for 6 months but can be renewed.
Local politics don’t address the problems urban working students face. These are “Dáil issues”: substandard accommodation, exploitative work and unregulated education. But Brazilians, like all short-term workers, have no voice in the Dáil.
Young, hard-working, constantly changing virtually- this section of Ireland’s working class is excluded from democracy in Ireland while here. Without a voice in national politics, workers like them, find they are exploited at work by clever bosses and in their homes by private landlords. They can sometimes even be pushed around by language school who have a say over whether their visas are renewed during the pandemic.
People Before Profit welcomes everyone who shares our politics. We are not nationalist but internationalist in our membership. And we are active with most of our dozens of branches in Ireland holding three to four branch and national events a week and all members have a say.
But even without PBP membership, all workers active in Ireland have access to democracy through trade union membership. That’s where every worker’s voice can and should be heard every month at branch meetings.
All workers have a right to trade union membership.
PBP’s Trade Union Department has been highlighting this fact through regular meetings organising delivery riders in Dublin. We are now seeing these workers starting to take up membership in SIPTU. Hopefully SIPTU can mount an rider organising campaign like these unions from all around the world organising app-based precarious delivery riders today.
So this is not to congratulate ourselves but to underline the need we all have to renew our own engagement in our own trade unions. When we are more active in our own trade unions we force our trade unions to be more democratic, welcoming and responsive to everyone in Ireland’s working class in 2021.
There is a lot riding on how active we are in our trade unions. So no matter where you are from get active in your People Before Profit branch and your trade union.
Let’s make sure our trade unions deliver for all workers in Ireland.