and Facts - It's Time the Fishing Industry Took A Stand
the 4th of July this year the International Transport Federation
and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland made a presentation to the
Joint Oireachtas Committee for Jobs and Enterprise about the alleged
widespread abuse of migrant workers within the Irish Fishing Industry.
According to Francis O'Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish
Producers Organisation (IFPO), the Fishing Industry was dragged
through the gutter once again and all kinds of allegations were
made under the protection of privilege against the Irish Fishing
industry and various agencies such as the WRC and the Gardai. The
latter two are charged with policing the permit system for migrant
of that focus was on how they were turning a blind eye to the alleged
abuses of migrant workers and in some cases warning fishing vessel
owners of inspections in advance. Reference was also made to the
fact that a complaint was lodged to GSOC by the industry after raids
in Castletownbere and Howth last year by the Gardai. The IFPO was
not named as the complainant but we were named as representing the
his regular monthly column and opinion piece in the August issue
of the Marine Times Newspaper, Mr. O'Donnell states that the ITF
in their presentation advised the Committee about a number of migrant
workers, working in the Irish Fishing Industry, living somewhere
in Ireland and having to urinate out a window as they had no toilet.
"Ken Fleming of the ITF referred to having to take a migrant
worker home for Christmas where he and the dog had Christmas dinner
together. The ITF compared the atypical permit as being similar
to a dog licence. To say a picture paints a thousand words is an
Irish Fishing industry is working with a scheme that it was given
by a Task Force and has pointed out on numerous occasions that the
scheme needs to be changed.
O'Donnell states that; "In January of this year I wrote to
then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald asking for a meeting
of stakeholders to resolve issues around the current permit scheme
for atypical migrant workers. In particular I focused on the need
to have a transferable permit to protect the rights of the worker
and minimise the risk to them. At no time was this mentioned. I
copied the Migrant Rights Centre for Ireland on this communication
at the time.
the 20th of July, the Workplace Relations Commission who are primarily
charged with policing this scheme, published facts in relation to
statistics with relation to the Irish fishing industry. They have
undertaken 208 inspections of the whitefish fleet, involving 150
of the 176 whitefish vessels over 15 metres in length. They detected
almost 200 contraventions, relating to 110 vessels, to the end of
June, 2017, and initiated 5 prosecutions where compliance by other
means was not secured.
WRC intends to inspect the remaining 26 vessels by the end of Summer,
2017. The contraventions detected by the WRC to the end of June
relate to failure to produce or to keep records (36%), leave, public
holiday and Sunday entitlements (20%), working without permission
(14%) and a failure to issue payslips (13%).
clearly shows that there are 'bedding-in' problems and that the
WRC are actually doing their work and not turning a blind eye. They
are doing quite the opposite, " commented Mr. O'Donnell.
the ITF and the Migrant Rights Centre for Ireland have anecdotal
or real evidence of widespread abuse of migrant workers in the Fishing
industry they have to furnish that information to the authorities
- being the Gardai and the WRC. In their evidence the ITF advised
of convening a meeting of Migrant workers in Dublin where many had
no permits and were working on Irish Fishing vessels.
incredible to state this and not hand over that information. Maybe
they have done this but I have serious issues with this. Knowing
a crime is being committed and not informing the authorities is,
in my opinion, contributing to the problem, not solving it.
Irish Fishing industry may not be perfect; the atypical scheme is
certainly far from the perfect scheme but it's all we have to work
with right now. Vessels are being prosecuted by the WRC, which is
now clear from their press release.
certainly have work to do and I have been outspoken about any mistreatment
of migrant or EU workers in the Irish Fishing Industry. Dogs, and
migrant workers having Christmas dinner together is emotive but
distracting from the issues and the many brilliant vessel owners
paying migrant workers properly and in some cases well above the
agreed contract including bonuses.
4th of July was the dragging of our industry through the gutter.
I believe this was a co-ordinated and well-choreographed strategy.
That is why I asked that the Industry be called in front of the
same Committee in September to give our side of the story and to
bring a bit of balance to the debate.
O'Donnell concludes stating that; "It may be time to call it
a day on the atypical scheme as some are using it to build their
own media profile and damage ours. Reviewing it may not be enough
as some want to unionise migrant workers. I am starting to think
it may be time to scrap the scheme as it is being used against us
for various reasons, some of which are self-serving to say the least."
recruitment of Irish fishermen to Irish vessels has been a difficult
sell in the last number of years not helped by national media bias
against the industry and scurrilous comments by politicians in the
past stating that Irish fishermen were criminals.
an attempt to entice Irish men and women into the industry a new
group has been set up, the National Fishermen's Development Group.
A new group which has been set up in conjunction with BIM and representatives
from all sectors of the fishing industry. The groups remit is to
look at the issues which are currently affecting all the various
sectors of the industry. Some of the main issues identified to date
have been recruitment of crew into the industry and training.
group are looking at a number of strategies on how to make our industry
more attractive to new crew and how to improve the conditions for
the current crew.
group has also met with Michael Keating at the BIM offices to discuss
and consult with them regarding BIM's their plans to set up national
training plan to support recruitment into the industry. Michael
outlined the BIM training framework and the need for it. He also
outlined that an industry consultative committee will be needed
to agree the detail and implementation of all training.
part of this strategy it has also been identified that the industries
public image needs much improvement, the group is currently working
on press releases to highlight the positive aspects of the industry
which you will see in mainstream media in the coming weeks and months.