According to figures provided by Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, two prosecutions have so far been initiated as a result of the detections.
The department said it could not provide specific information in relation to matters which may come before the courts.
The detections emerged after the inspectorate and enforcement division of the Workplace Relations Commission inspected two thirds of the fleet or 112 boats which, according to the minister, “come within the aegis of the Atypical Worker Permission Scheme”. The other third are to be inspected before the summer.
That scheme was created for non-EEA fishermen working on Irish fishing vessels and is administered primarily by the Department of Justice and the Irish National Immigration Service on behalf of the Department of the Marine.
The WRC’s responsibility relates to the enforcement of the Employment Permits Acts and employment rights legislation including minimum wage legislation.
The minister said that, of the 157 contraventions detected, there were:
- 28 instances of illegal workers;
- 58 records contraventions;
- 12 contraventions of the Atypical Scheme;
- 59 other employment rights contraventions.
“The WRC’s objective is to facilitate voluntary compliance insofar as contraventions notified are concerned.
"In this regard, employers/vessel owners are afforded all reasonable opportunity to rectify contraventions and, where relevant, pay any unpaid wages and/or make good on entitlements arising from these contraventions,” the minister said.
“However, it is the policy of the WRC to issue compliance notices or fixed payment notices and/or to initiate legal proceedings in cases where an employer/vessel owner has failed or is unwilling to effect compliance.”
She pointed out that last year the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) carried out 23 inspections of fishing vessels under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.
She said planned actions in the HSA’s Programme of Work for 2017 include 50 inspections of fishing vessels “and continued support for the memorandum of understanding agreed by relevant state enforcement bodies to provide an effective inspection system for the sector”.
However the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) which represents workers in the industry, said that while it would not criticise the Workplace Relations Commission as a whole, the labour inspectorate section needs to “man up” where breaches are concerned.
“It is disappointing to learn at this late stage that out of 157 contraventions discovered by the labour inspectors only two are the subject of prosecutions.
"The ITF and Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) have written to [Agriculture] Minister Michael Creed asking that the scheme be reviewed so that greater compliance can be achieved.
"A fundamental aspect of the review is the inclusion of both the ITF and the MRCI within this process,” said ITF co-ordinator for Britain and Ireland, Ken Fleming.
He added voluntary compliance “12 months down the road” is no longer an option.