Majority of fishing vessel owners sanctioned over treatment of crew

Majority of fishing vessel owners sanctioned over treatment of crew

The fishing vessel owner has certain responsibilities to ensure the workers are given regular breaks, annual leave and the statutory minimum wage. File picture

Over three-quarters of fishing vessel owners registered under the Atypical Migrant Workers Scheme have been issued with contravention notices in relation to the treatment of their fishermen.

In total, there have been nearly 400 contraventions of the employment legislation detected by Workplace Relations Commission inspectors since 2016.

Junior Enterprise Minister Damien English said the contraventions range from employing non-European fishers without permission, hours of work, failure to pay the national minimum wage and annual leave entitlements.

The union representing these workers said the figures, released via parliamentary question, show “mistreatment of migrant labour is essentially the norm” and urged the Government to reform the scheme.

However, Patrick Murphy of the Irish South & West Fish Producer's Organisation said fishermen are being vilified despite working within a system which is “not fit for purpose”.

“Don’t punish someone operating in a broken system and say it’s their fault,” he said. “We’ve good hope on a new scheme being developed.” 

Under the Atypical Working Scheme, non-EU migrants are given a visa where they must enter into a contract with a fishing vessel owner, which lasts for up to a year before it can be renewed.

It was introduced as a means of covering such workers on Irish fishing boats who are currently not eligible for an employment permit under the system operated by the Department of Enterprise. At the time, the Government said it was welcomed as a solution to exploitation and to guarantee rights and protections to non-EEA fishers availing of the scheme.

The fishing vessel owner has certain responsibilities to ensure the workers are given regular breaks, annual leave and the statutory minimum wage.

A report published by Maynooth University researchers last year on the scheme highlighted that some of the workers were subject to: 

  • extremely long working hours with few breaks, 
  • low wages often below the minimum wage, 
  • and verbal abuse and racist comments.

On foot of the Maynooth report, ministers agreed to review the operation of the scheme.

Since its introduction in 2016, 520 people employed by 101 vessel owners have been granted permission under the Atypical Working Scheme. As of September 29, there were 277 individuals employed by 66 vessel owners currently holding a letter of approval under the scheme.

In response to a separate recent question on the topic, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said a cross-departmental review of the scheme was recently carried out and its report and recommendations will be brought to Government “in the near future”.

Mr Murphy said the Atypical scheme is “not proper and it doesn’t protect the fishermen”, and that it doesn’t cater to their specific industry which can often involve very long hours one week and little to none the next.

“We are constrained by bad legislation, the people victimised are the fishermen trying to look after these lads.” 

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Text header

From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

Let Me Tell You

Let Me Tell You is a new bespoke podcast series from 

Logo IE

Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

Bespoke political podcast series from

Logo IE
War_map
Execution Time: 0.215 s