During the review of Economic Migration Policy published last year, I requested that the emerging labour shortages being experienced in the agri-sector be prioritised. In May 2018 a pilot quota based scheme of General employment permits for dairy farm assistants, horticulture workers and meat processing operatives was put in place to address the immediate needs of the sector. The scheme allows workers from non-EEA countries to access employment opportunities with all employers in the sector who are seeking labour. To date this pilot scheme has proved very successful for a range of employers in the sector with a total of 1,378 out of the total quota of 1,500 permits for Meat Processing Operatives granted. The application of a quota based system is to ensure that in the longer-term, strategies are put in place to source labour supply from both the domestic and European labour markets and to invest in innovative technologies for the sector.
Applications for employment permits are open to all employers, regardless of size or number of vacancies held, to seek a permit following submission of an application form and appropriate documents as required. All applications for employment permits are processed in line with the Employment Permits Acts and associated Regulations which lay down in legislation the criteria in relation to the application and grant and refusal of an employment permit. Applications are processed in date order. Under the Employment Permit Acts, the Minister may refuse an application where either the employer or employee has received a conviction under employment permit or employment rights legislation in the previous 5 years.
In order to assist with the application process, the Department has produced a suite of information to assist in the application process including details on how to carry out the Labour Market Needs Test, a ‘User Guide' to our online application system and a comprehensive FAQ Document which answers the most common queries received regarding employment permits. My officials have also produced a checklist document specifically for Meat Processing Operatives which, if followed, should result in the granting of an employment permit. This information can be found in the Employment Permits section of my Department’s website at www.dbei.gov.ie. My officials are also available by phone on LoCall 1890 201 616 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to answer any queries regarding employment permits.
In addition, officials from the Department regularly engage directly with stakeholders, and have been invited by various representative groups such as the Irish Farmers Association to deliver presentations on the employment permit system. Officials also attended both the Tullamore Show and the National Ploughing Championships in 2018 as part of this engagement process.