Welcoming the Inter Departmental agreement, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney said: "The Task Force has worked rapidly to examine potential solutions which will bring about a significantly improved situation for non EEA workers in the Irish fishing industry. It will see Ireland addressing what is essentially a global phenomenon.
"The new scheme will, I believe, greatly reduce the possibilities for the abuse of migrant works by unscrupulous employers. It will also provide a mechanism to assist those currently in Ireland, who are in difficult situations, to enter a new employment relationship. It will also help to improve the situation for Ireland’s operators in the fishing industry whose reputation may have been damaged by these allegations, due to the widespread coverage of the matter."
The Minister continued:"The new scheme will allow this valuable Irish industry meet its necessary labour needs while simultaneously allowing a structured transparent scheme whereby non EU workers can be recruited. These workers will be guaranteed all appropriate employment rights and protections during the period of their employment."
Minister of State for Business and Employment, Ged Nash, who also participated in the Task Force, commented: "I want to commend everyone on the Taskforce who have responded with great alacrity to the widespread concerns relating to exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers in a section of the fishing industry. What we have now is a new scheme to assist non EEA workers who are already operating on Irish vessels and a process to fill vacancies on licensed trawlers that is robust and fair. The new system introduces clear contracts and minimum pay, terms and conditions which are enforceable in Irish and EU law. In other words these fishermen will now enjoy the same protections as apply to every other worker in Ireland."
Among the main provisions of the new scheme are:
- A new system of atypical worker permission to be put in place for recruitment of non EEA workers in the future.
- The scheme will provide that during the first 3 months after its commencement, permissions will be limited to those non-EEA workers already operating in Ireland on fishing vessels.
- Cross-sectoral pre clearance system ensuring a comprehensive legally binding contract of employment to be put in place.
- Employers (who must be a licensed vessel owner) are to be responsible for ensuring that a valid contract of employment, certified by a Solicitor and drafted in accordance with National and EU employment rights legislation, is in place for all workers to also include repatriation arrangements.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to be put in place by relevant State enforcement bodies to provide a rigorous and effective inspection system and the MOU will be in place before the commencement of the scheme.
- State to set up a depository of contracts and monitor overall level of contracts which will be capped at a maximum of 500.
- Employees will be guaranteed the national minimum wage, will be repatriated at the conclusion of the contract and will have in place health insurance for the employee for the duration of the contract.
Commenting following the third meeting of the task force Minister Coveney stated:"The full report of the task force is currently being finalised and it is my intention to bring it to Government prior to publication in the coming weeks."
Minister Coveney concluded that: "The agreement reached today represents a major step forward for the Irish fishing industry and for non EEA workers being employed in the industry. Appropriate flexibility will exist under the scheme for these employees to be recruited, but this can only be done in a clear regulated manner which ensures all relevant standards and protections for the employees."
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