Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (301, 304)

Declan Breathnach

Question:

301. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to increase the monitoring of the atypical workers scheme as it relates to the fishing industry to ensure that the terms of a settlement agreement reached after High Court proceedings earlier in 2019 will be adhered to; if her attention has been drawn to the high volume of migrant workers in the fishing industry working more than 60 hours per week resulting in an hourly rate of pay as low as €2.82 per hour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51591/19]

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Declan Breathnach

Question:

304. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to provide the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court with jurisdiction to hear complaints by workers on sea-fishing vessels of violations of the European Communities (Workers on Board Sea-going Fishing Vessels) (Organisation of Working Time) Regulations 2003 and to make awards in respect of such violations; if not, the reason complaints by such workers are excluded from the jurisdiction of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51724/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 301 and 304 together.

Lead policy responsibility for the fishing sector resides with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine who also provide the administrative support for the Atypical Worker Permission Scheme's Oversight Committee. The Atypical Worker Permission Scheme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish National Immigration Service. Several Departments and State agencies are involved in the monitoring and enforcement of the atypical worker scheme. These include An Garda Síochána, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Marine Survey Office (MSO) of the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport (DTTAS), the Naval Service, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Revenue Commissioners, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

My Department has operational responsibility for the WRC which oversees the enforcement of employment legislation, including the national minimum wage legislation and the Organisation of Working Time Act.

The WRC already has an extensive inspection regime in place for the sector. From April 2016 to the end of June 2019, 390 port inspections of the 186 whitefish vessels that have participated in this Scheme since 2016 were undertaken by WRC inspectors.

Some 260 contraventions have been detected by WRC Inspectors in the period April 2016 to end June 2019:

- 26% of contraventions relate to the maintenance of records

- 19% of contraventions relate to leave, public holiday and associated entitlements

- 16% of contraventions relate to illegal workers

- 13% of contraventions are failures to issue payslips

- In 17% of cases, owners are not cooperating and/or complying with an Inspector's requirement

- 4% of contraventions related to pay rates.

Inspections and associated enquiries and follow up were completed by the WRC in respect of 149 vessels to the end of February 2019. In 54% of cases no contraventions were detected. In 89% of cases where a Contravention was detected, the matter was addressed following the issue of a Contravention Notice (i.e. without recourse to legal proceedings). Five successful prosecutions have been secured.

There are currently 171 vessels which come within the scope of the Atypical Working Scheme and the WRC inspection services have inspected 169 (over 99% of all vessels). Many vessels have been inspected more than twice over the past 4 years. It is noteworthy that the inspection rates are much more significant in relation to this Scheme than in any other employment sector.

Working time and rest break requirements for fishing vessels are provided for under The European Communities (Workers on Board sea-going Fishing Vessels) (Organisation of Working Time ) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 709 of 2003). Enforcement in this regard, including the inspection of statutory hours of work/rest records for fishing vessels, is a matter for Authorised officers of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. The WRC has secured an agreement with the DTTAS which provides that WRC inspectors who encounter potential contraventions of the hours of rest recording requirements may notify the MSO.

In relation to commitment 13 of the mediated agreement. My officials have met with the officials of DTTAS concerning the proposal to extend the WRC's and the Labour Court's jurisdiction to cover violations of SI 709 of 2013. This is currently being progressed.