All employment permit applications remain in the employment permit processing queue until reached for processing at which stage the appropriate economic sector and occupation is assigned. Therefore, there is no statistical data available regarding the number of outstanding work permit applications for employers seeking to employ skilled staff in the meat industry.
In 2018, at my request, following significant and ongoing engagement with the agri-food sector and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, a review of the emerging labour shortages being experienced in that sector was undertaken resulting in the introduction of a pilot scheme which provided for operatives for the horticulture, dairy farming and meat processing industries. A quota of 250 employment permits was introduced initially for meat processing operatives. This quota has been increased twice with provision made for a further 500 and 750 bringing the total to 1,500 permits. The Department is currently considering a further business case submitted by meat industry employer representatives for an additional quota for meat processing operatives and is engaging with officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in this regard.
In May 2019, following a submission made by meat industry employer representatives to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, citing the continuing difficulties experienced by employers in the sector to source labour to fill vacancies in such a labour intensive occupation such as the Meat Deboner role, approval was given to reopen the quota of Meat Deboner General Employment permits which had been closed since 2017. The quota was extended to provide an additional 300 employment permits. The quota was extended following consideration of the submission by the industry of a business case citing the continuing difficulties experienced by employers in the sector to source labour resources, despite their investment in training programmes and recruitment drives both nationally and across the EEA. The employment permit system offers an interim solution for employers where specific skills prove difficult to source within the EEA. To date 197 of these permits have issued.