RTE star employs illegal immigrants

category dublin | worker & community struggles and protests | other press author Dé Máirt Feabhra 14, 2006 11:56author by Oliver Delaneyauthor email oliverd at yahoo dot com Report this post to the editors

The saviour of Bewleys Jay Bourke exploiting immigrants

This is an article in this week's Sunday Mirror article about RTE's celebrity businessman ripping off migrant workers

RTE business guru Jay Bourke has admitted he knowingly employed illegal immigrants in his restaurants.

Former male model Bourke is a presenter on the RTE show The Mentor.

The TV tycoon gives advice to struggling Irish businesses looking to turn their businesses around.

Multi-millionaire Bourke, 39, owns some of Dublin's trendiest restaurants and pubs.

But last week during a debate about immigration in the Crawdaddy club in Dublin he openly boasted about employing illegal immigrants.

The ex-Calvin Klein model even admitted a gardai team surrounded one of his restaurants in 2000 looking to catch illegal workers.

He said: "We had another little restaurant in town and on a Saturday night there were seven people in the kitchen.

"Five of the seven people were illegal.

"So the cops came and surrounded the building, blocked the exits and attempted to arrest all the workers who were working illegally."

Bourke stated: "I was a criminal that night - so were the five people working in the kitchen."

Bourke owns a string of upmarket pubs and nightclubs including The Globe, Market Bar, The Front Lounge, Gubu, Ri Ra's and Bodega in Cork.

The RTE star also owns some Dublin's most profitable restaurants including Eden, Cafe Bar Deli and the Odessa.

His company Sherland Entertainments has an annual turnover of more than 20million.

He claimed he had to illegally employ cheap labour because he could not find Irish people to work in the kitchens.

He said: "The only reason they were there was because we couldn't hire any Irish people.

"Now with new states coming in the EU we can hire people, get then PPS numbers - I'm no longer a criminal it's much better for us.

"We wouldn't actually be here in these kind of businesses without those immigrants."

In The Mentor, Bourke and co-presenter business chief Dr Jeanne Bolger offer companies their insights and expertise to guide them through the challenges they face.

But a former worker in the Odessa restaurant claimed Bourke could not attract Irish workers because he was not offering enough money.

She said: "If he wanted to find Irish people to work in the kitchens he would have to pay them decent money.

"A lot of the people working in his restaurants think it is a complete joke that he is on the TV telling people how to run a business when we knew he was employing illegals."

Bourke was hailed as a hero by Dublin politicians after he "saved" Bewleys on Grafton Street.

The multi-millionaire club owner is a well-known figure on the Dublin social and charity scene.

Incredibly Bourke recently spoke at a Migrant Rights Centre Ireland press conference in November launching a booklet for non-national workers called "Know your rights". At the launch Bourke said: "Irish businesses rely increasingly on the skills of migrant employees. As employers we have a duty to make sure they are fully informed about their rights and entitlements."

Labour Party justice spokesman Joe Costello accused Bourke of exploiting vulnerable workers. He said: "The only reason for people to break the law and employ illegal workers is because they do not want to pay the going rate.

"RTE should examine if someone who has engaged in these practices is appropriate to be presented as a role model for Irish entrepreneurs.

He added: "Illegal immigrants are always paid below the minimum wage - and they cannot complain and they cannot join a union. RTE should seriously look at the future of any programme where known exploiters are set up as a paragon of virtue."

A spokesman for the Department of Employment claimed a legal loophole 2003 allowed employers to hire illegals.

He said: "Following the enactment of the Employment Permits Act on the 10th April, 2003, it is illegal to employ a non-EEA national without a work permit where one is required.

"Prior to this enactment, there were no offence categories to cover this issue."