Wanted: Silage tractor drivers

It’s a busy time on farms as contractors get into full swing, with plenty of field work under way.

Silage season is nearly upon us, it will kick off in earnest in a little over a month’s time.

Meanwhile, construction work, and an economy reaching near full employment (5.4% unemployment), have absorbed many a young rural person’s time, and contractors are finding it harder to gets lads to fall in for a bit of tractor driving.

The silage season has got earlier and earlier over

recent decades, as farmers have been encouraged to go for quality rather than bulk, meaning the silage season is well under way by mid-May.

A decade or two ago, contractors were able to draw on a plethora of young lads who ran out of the class rooms at the end of May to begin their school holidays stuffed into the cabs of tractors.

If you were lucky enough, your tractor had a sunroof or an opening front window.

If not, you stripped off as many layers as you could, with many a young lad suffering a worse case of sunburn in the process.

But enough of the

nostalgia , and back to the present, with contractors using a variety of strategies to try to overcome their labour shortage problems.

Some bring their farmer clients on board to fall in for a few weeks of drawing silage, in exchange for getting their silage done on the cheap or even for free.

This strategy is becoming harder to implement,

because more and more beef and sheep farmers now have off-farm incomes, and many younger dairy farmers have expanded herd sizes to a

degree that they no longer have spare time.

Other contractors have chosen to get bigger, using monstrous tractors and equally monstrous trailers, in order to reduce the numbers of units that need manning.

Back in the day, every spare tractor, be they two or four wheel drive, was put drawing silage with a variety of timber and steel trailers, mostly of the single axle variety.

Plumes of black smoke spouted from TW15s and 8210s, with a corresponding quantity of decibels dispensed.

One local contractor in the 1990s remarked that his neighbour’s trailers were “butter boxes”, to which the neighbour took great insult.

Now, with super-cube, compactor trailers, and triple axle trailers, the capacities are enormous, and so too is the speed at which the tractors can travel (exceeding 60km in some cases).

Avoiding labour saves cost, but comes at a dear price for expensive, oversized tractors and trailers.

Yet more contractors are looking at sourcing labour from Australia or New Zealand, currently entering in their autumn period, and with workloads for contractors therefore lightening up.

The process of getting a worker from down under is not as simple as issuing an

invite and an offer of employment.

A prospective non-EU

employee must obtain a working holiday authorisation and an irish residence permit. Application forms are available from the Irish consulate offices.

The individual must have sufficient resources to repatriate themselves back to their country, must have a valid passport with at least 15 months remaining, and if they intend on taking up a driving role in Ireland, must have a valid licence in their own country with corresponding categories.

On moving to Ireland the individual must apply for a PPS number by attending a social welfare office in person. The employee must then register their employment, using Revenue’s myaccount portal.

In terms of fulfilling their legal requirements, the prospective employer should present the individual with an employment contract;

notify the employee of their right to have some wages

applied to a pension scheme; give the employee appropriate training for the

machinery/task they are to do; abide by the minimum wage requirements; abide by the Working Time Act requirements (break periods etc); and should ensure the employee obtains 11 hours of consecutive rest in any period of 24 hours, and 24 consecutive hours rest in any period of seven days (with some exceptions).

Just as the machinery has moved on significantly from the 80s and 90s, so too have

labour law and health and safety. Employers could face significant consequences, in the event of an accident, where their working practices are negligent and have put their workers at risk.

Getting more hours work out of the employees at your disposal is not a clever strategy is things go wrong.

Chartered Tax Advisor FCCA, AITI, [url=https://www.coughlanaccounting.com]Coughlan Accounting & Taxation Services Ltd{/url}, 086-8678296 kieran.coughlan@coughlanaccounting.com

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