Fisheries employers to pay for repatriation of migrant workers under new proposals

Employers in the fishing industry will have to pay the costs of repatriating migrant workers to their home countries once their permits expire, under proposals recommended by a taskforce.
Fisheries employers to pay for repatriation of migrant workers under new proposals
Junior jobs minister Ged Nash

Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Coveney has also been advised that a new permit system to protect vulnerable migrant workers in the fishing industry must be inspected and solicitor-approved.

The taskforce report was brought to Cabinet this week and comes on the back of recent newspaper reports that illegal, non-European migrant workers were being used here as cheap labour.

The taskforce’s report, obtained by the Irish Examiner, says the main challenges are tackling the alleged trafficking of non-EU workers into the fishing fleet, addressing the alleged exploitation of workers on boats, and looking at the issue of undocumented workers and their rights in the industry.

Mr Coveney said a special permit system for up to 500 migrant fishermen is being introduced, in a bid to reduce the possibilities of abuse of workers by “unscrupulous employers” .

It is envisaged the permits, to cover a 12-month period, will regularise the position of undocumented migrant workers in the industry.

The taskforce report also proposes employers must pay the repatriation costs of migrant workers, once the permit expires.

“The contract must also have specific provisions (at the expense of the employer) for repatriation arrangements for the employee which will apply when the contract is completed,” the taskforce says.

Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Coveney

Where employers breach conditions for workers and their rights, no more permits will be granted to them under the scheme. They will also be forced to foot the cost of returning workers to their home countries if they breach the new rules protecting the vulnerable workers.

Crew members must have their health insurance cover paid for by employers, including access to hospital care if needed arising out of accidents.

The new permits, which guarantee minimum wages and rights for migrant workers, must also be legally approved, the taskforce has told Mr Coveney.

Under the new rules, at least half the crew of fishing boats will have to be from EU countries and the new permits must not displace work opportunities for local workers in coastal communities, the report says.

“Any specific mechanism designed to assist with the employment of non-EEA workers should not impact unduly on the employment of local populations in coastal communities,” the report adds.

Existing workers who may be undocumented now have less than three months to apply for the new permits. Any new workers will have to have permits in place before they travel to Ireland.

A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said that he was “confident” all the taskforce recommendations would be implemented. She also confirmed the new rules did not set a minimum limit on the cost of repatriating workers.

Mr Coveney’s office pointed out that over 3,000 people work in the Irish fishing fleet and the new scheme provides for a maximum of 500 permits at any given time.

Junior jobs minister Ged Nash will now chair a group to oversee the changes.

Junior jobs minister Ged Nash
Junior jobs minister Ged Nash

The Labour minister told the Irish Examiner: “We now have a scheme which I believe will address the problem of illegal migrant workers in the Irish fishing fleet.”and also the potential for abuse of these workers.

"What is key now is the enforcement and inspection element and I am chairing a group to agree a memorandum of Understanding to provide for effective enforcement across all relevant state agencies.”

More in this section