Interact Developing the Multicultural Workplace

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Project Summary

Developing the Multicultural Workplace is a new project that has recently been approved for funding under the European Social Fund's Equal Initiative. As required by Equal, the project proposal has been prepared by a "Development Partnership" called Interact, which consists of Congress, IBEC, Integrate Ireland (formerly the Refugee Language Support Unit in TCD) and FÁS. The operating period for the project is June 2002 to March 2004.


Ireland has an expanding multicultural work force, currently there are over two hundred and fifty thousand non-Irish nationals employed in the Irish economy or 13% of the entire labour force. Despite the recent slow-down in the economic growth rate, there will still be a need for significant immigration to satisfy labour demands for the continued economic growth forecast for the immediate future.

The Development Partnership promoting this operational programme intend addressing some of the challenges presented in developing a multicultural work environment where significant numbers of the work force have limited or no knowledge of English. The programme will ensure that the Irish work environment will continue to develop the capacities and skills to maintain a multicultural work environment that builds on the benefits that diversity brings to the individual worker, company and the economy as a whole.

Project Aims and Objectives

The project seeks to address some of the barriers at enterprise level that will ensure the establishment of effective supports for both the employers of non-Irish nationals and the non-Irish national employees themselves and consequently develop the conditions that will enable the Irish labour market to support a multi-cultural workforce. The project has two related elements of language support and muticulturalism/diversity support.

The objectives of the project are:

  • To develop work-based language training programmes that supports supervisors/managers/union officials communicate effectively with non-Irish nationals workers
  • To develop a work-based language portfolio that includes:
    • Basic language skills training
    • Health and safety
    • Rights and entitlements
    • Work practices and culture in Ireland
    • Language-specific training for non-Irish nationals interacting with other workers and/or customers
  • To develop two training programmes on managing diversity in the workplace with particular reference to
    • Human resource management and a multi-cultural work environment
    • Working in a multi-cultural workplace - issues and practice
  • To train a number of trainers and tutors to deliver the above programmes
  • To develop a Website framework that supports wide dissemination and access to the programmes developed.

Project Actions

The partnership has identified three sectors with which the project proposes to work. These are

  • Medical / Health services Sector
  • Catering / Hospitality Sector
  • Food processing / Horticulture Sector.

It is intended to have the active participation of five or six companies/organisations within each sector. The project seeks to have the engagement of both the management and unions within these companies, working jointly with the project team to deliver the aims and objectives outlined above. The first phase of the project will entail a survey of the participating companies which will be designed to

a) Audit existing policies, practices and systems within companies and unions that may be pertinent to the project

b) Survey attitudes among migrant workers, their Irish co-workers, shop stewards, union officials and managers

Following analysis of this survey/audit, a range of appropriate awareness, training and support interventions will be planned and implemented, as above.

The project has transnational partners in Finland (led by SAK, the Finnish trade union confederation) and Austria (led by an NGO working with migrant workers). These projects have similar objectives to the Irish project, and all three are collaborating on a common platform through FAIRER to implement their common elements.