A settlement reached in the High Court (30/04) will introduce changes to the atypical work permit scheme for non-EEA fishermen working in parts of the Irish fishing fleet.

The International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) had brought the case against relevant government departments, seeking ‘an immediate moratorium’ on the grant or renewal of work permits pending a review of conditions attaching to scheme.

The main terms of the agreement include:

  • every intended participant under the Scheme is to receive their contract of employment in their native language, as well as English. The contract will include clear wording regarding the fisher’s entitlements to pay, working-hours, and rest periods. The letter of approval is also to be in the fisher’s native language, as well as English, as appropriate
  • a link to a webpage explaining the fisher’s rights as an employee and where the fisher can make complaints regarding any violation of these rights will be provided to participants in their letter of approval
  • costs associated with applications under the Atypical Workers Scheme will not be recoupable from the fisher’s wages, as was the case previously
  • no employment permission is granted to any non-EEA nationals to work in the State without a contract with a specific employer. Non-EEA fishers retain the right to transfer employment within the Scheme; any such transfer of employment can occur without the existing or previous employer’s consent
  • where the Department of Justice & Equality becomes aware that a fisher has left their employment, for any reason before the end of their twelve month contract, a letter will issue to the non-EEA fisher requesting that they provide details of their new contract of employment under the Scheme to the Department within 28 days
  • EU Directive 2017/159 will be transposed into Irish law by November 15, regulating maximum hours of work, minimum hours of rest, and manning requirements aboard commercial fishing vessels
  • the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Marine Survey Office (MSO) and the Department of Justice and Equality will liaise on the enforcement of S.I. 709 of 2003 (relating to the hours of work and rest on board fishing vessels)
  • the Oversight Committee, chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will meet on a two monthly basis for the first six months, starting in May, and quarterly thereafter to monitor the Scheme and ensure that it is operating as intended

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has welcomed the news that the parties reached agreement:

“If properly implemented, this will contribute to the fight against human trafficking and severe labour exploitation on Irish fishing vessels, and to ensuring that the rights of non-EEA fishermen are vindicated,” remarked Emily Logan, chief commissioner.

The relevant Government Departments involved in the Scheme are the Department of Justice and Equality; Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and the Workplace Relations Commission.

Background

The Scheme for the employment of non-EEA fishers in parts of Ireland’s commercial sea-fishing fleet was launched on February 15, 2016. The Scheme is an extension of the Atypical Working Scheme, administered by the Department of Justice & Equality (Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service), and was introduced based on a series of recommendations made by the Government Task Force on Non-EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Fleet in December 2015.

This Task Force was established following reports of alleged abuses of migrant workers on board Irish fishing vessels. It received presentations and submissions from a number of relevant stakeholders, including the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and the International Transport Workers Federation.

The Scheme provided for the first time a structured and transparent framework for the employment of non-EEA workers within defined segments of the Irish fishing fleet. The Scheme sets down minimum terms and conditions of employment applicable to these workers, in line with the general statutory terms and conditions applicable to workers more generally in the State. The Scheme was welcomed as a solution to the risk of exploitation and to guarantee employment rights and protections to non-EEA fishers availing of the Scheme.

Further information on the Scheme.