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Committee on Public Petitions díospóireacht -
Thursday, 7 Jul 2022

Consideration of Public Petition on Adding Chefs to the Critical Skills List Now to Save Irish Hospitality: Discussion

We will have two sets of witnesses with us to speak on two separate issues.

Petition No. 00025/22 from Mr. Paddy Lynn concerns adding chefs to the critical skills list now to save Irish hospitality. Mr. Lynn and Mr. Khairul Nizam Bin Nayan will speak on this petition. Later in the meeting, we will address petition No. 00042/21 from Ms Joanna Curtis, which is concerned with saving the services of the Owenacurra Centre, Midleton, east Cork. Dr. Orla Kelleher will speak on that topic.

Before we start, I will explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses regarding references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. The witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if any of their statements are potentially defamatory in regard to an identifiable person or entity, the witnesses will be directed to discontinue the remarks. It is imperative that the witnesses comply with such direction. Before we hear from Mr. Lynn regarding his petition, I propose that we publish the opening statement on the committee's website. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I extend a warm welcome to Mr. Lynn and to Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan. I suggest that Mr. Lynn make his opening statement for about ten minutes. We will then have questions and comments from members. Each member will have approximately ten minutes. Members may speak more than once. I invite Mr. Lynn to make his opening statement.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I thank the Chair and the committee for having us in. I begin my presentation by quoting the description on the website of the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment of the critical skills employment permit:

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State. Eligible occupations under this type of permit are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy, are highly demanded and highly skilled, and in significant shortage of supply in our labour market.

I wish to separate that statement into two parts, each of which, in my view, is separate and independent of the other and should be treated thus when considering my petition. The second part is most pertinent and relevant to the current major issues facing our sector, namely:

Eligible occupations under this type of permit are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy, are highly demanded and highly skilled, and in significant shortage of supply in our labour market.

This statement alone is tailor-made to confirm the premise of my petition that chefs should be added to the critical skills list.

During the meeting of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on 25 May 2022, which was loosely entitled the "Working Conditions and Skills Shortages in Ireland’s Tourism and Hospitality Sector", representatives of the Licensed Vintners Association, LVA, and the Vintners Federation of Ireland, VFI, clearly showed the desperate dearth of hospitality staff across all disciplines and counties. Markedly, the representatives of both groups alluded specifically to the shortage of chefs as being fundamental to the re-emergence of their members' businesses.

The Chair, Deputy Niamh Smyth, from Fianna Fáil, presided engagingly on the topic and asked the hugely important question of where it was possible for the sector to get skilled staff. From the Government’s perspective, the answer comes from the expert group on future skills needed, EGFSN, established in 1997. It is tasked with advising the Government on future skills requirements and associated labour market issues that impact on the national potential for enterprise and employment growth. Its membership includes representatives from Government Departments, enterprise development agencies, businesses, unions, the further education and training sector and the Higher Education Authority, HEA. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in conjunction with the skills and labour market research unit, SOLAS, provides the EGFSN with research and analysis support.

Mr. Paul Clancy of the VFI suggested, quite reasonably, that an investigation of the precise scale of the problem needs to be conducted at Government level. The EGFSN is the entity to do that. On its "About Us" web page, the organisation describes what it does. I will cite those aspects relevant to my petition:

We advise Government on projected skills requirements at national and sectoral levels and make recommendations on how best to address identified needs.


We advise on any skills requirements that cannot be met internally at a given time and so must be met through inward migration.

I then read the current working list of objectives from the EFGSN's website. These are an artificial intelligence, AI, skills report; a design skills report; a zero-carbon skills report; a design skills implementation group; and work in the context of the report on Building Future Skills: Demand for Skills in Ireland’s Built Environment Sector to 2030. Hospitality sector needs are not mentioned or addressed. In the context of an industry that has such highly publicised labour difficulties, surely the EGFSN should be scrambling to acknowledge and respond to the current supply-demand catastrophe. As this is clearly not high on the Government's agenda, it falls to industry representatives like me to argue the case for at least accepting the issue exists on a national level.

To date, my engagement with the Ministers and Departments involved has been mixed. The overall mood is that the legislation is dated, tired and unfit for purpose. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has been responsive to our approaches at lobbying level and information on advisers and contacts has been given freely. All those to whom I have spoken have been very helpful, but they suffer under the heavy burden of unabating processing queues and complex bureaucratic inadequacies. These issues make their work and objectives unclear. They also make solving issues or errors extremely slow and hierarchical. The impression given is of a disparate system where checks and balances take undue time. This is a matter for future resolution.

The crisis we face right now asks for immediate action. The statutory instruments that can allow this change exist and are easily amended. This is the main legislative barrier I see:

In the case of a Critical Skills Employment Permit for an employment for which the minimum annual remuneration is €30,000, the qualification required in respect of that employment is a third level degree relevant to the employment concerned.

This third level degree stipulation must be removed. Some of the most influential, powerful, successful and productive members of our society, and some of those in industries, do not have third level degrees. It is an archaic measure of suitability that is standing obnoxiously in the way of the progress of my petition.

I will return to the description of the critical skills employment permit and its first line:

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State.

I wish to reflect on the outdated precedence it indicates. The Maastricht treaty of 1992 opened the EU to freedom of movement and thereby created superb opportunities for workers to find employment in their fellow EU countries. Since 1992, the EU has transformed into a powerhouse of enterprise, industry and belief. Countries that were severely impacted by exceptionally poor labour market options are now thriving economies with enthused and proud young people, who often return from their time abroad and choose to remain in their native lands to set up businesses and raise their families. The will "to take up permanent residency in the [foster] State" is not as prevalent as it once was.

As a result it is not necessary for the critical skills employment permit to be framed in this way. Of course, housing is needed while workers are here and this will be a real issue. WeHaveChefs.com has noted from our coalface experience that accommodation is available throughout the country. It is just a matter of the hotels, restaurants, bars, chefs and ourselves as recruiters uniting in the search to find our incoming employees suitable lodging while they are here.

Our chefs for the most part are not economic migrants in the disheartened sense of the phrase. Instead they are highly skilled, highly versatile, well-travelled, globally wise go-getters who seize at a good opportunity when it arises. They know their skill set is in demand worldwide and they choose Ireland because our reputation for welcome and diversity is well known. They do not necessarily intend to stay forever. They are exploring the world and applying their passionate career choice to the nation in which they find themselves.

Under the general skills employment permit checklist, businesses seeking staff from outside the EU must complete a labour market needs test for each and every position they want to fill. For chefs this requires a EURES advertisement that must run for 28 days before the application can be submitted, an advertisement for the job in a national newspaper for three consecutive days and an advertisement for the job in a local newspaper or a copy of the advertisement on a jobs website, other than the EURES website, for three days.

The problem here is threefold. The expense of posting these advertisements is substantial, there is a delay of 28 days before an outside-of-EU permit may be submitted, and, most damningly; no-one responds to these advertisements. For example, WeHaveChefs.com placed 27 EURES advertisements over 28 days with 45 positions available in top-class hotels and restaurants throughout the country and we received two CVs, neither of which was anywhere near suitable for the position advertised.

The labour market needs test is obsolete as there do not seem to be chefs in the EU who want to come to work in Ireland. I do not think this is a poor reflection on Ireland's living and working conditions but instead describes the growth and development across the bloc that keeps native chefs in their domestic markets. The other element is that the hospitality sector is primarily and ideally manned by locals or at least nationals. These are people who take pride in their country's hospitality offering and often, like myself, they have only one language. Therefore, the transferability of their skill sets as chefs is hampered by their inability to communicate in a foreign tongue. The culinary sectors throughout Europe cater largely for their own domestic markets.

On the contrary, the chefs we bring from east Asia more often than not have worked in international hotels where English is commonly used as the mean language. They are well-equipped, ready and prepared to travel to use their skills overseas. Their intention is not to take up permanent residency but to explore the world of culinary variety. We do not need to worry where they will live so much; we simply need to welcome them into our country and our communities and help them find accommodation suited to their location. Where there is a will, there is a way. I thank the committee for hearing my argument and I hope this petition is not raised in vain.

I thank Mr. Lynn. Is the shortage of chefs an issue throughout the EU? If not, is it the language issue to which Mr. Lynn referred that prevents them from coming to Ireland?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I imagine there is a shortage. I do not have the statistics for the rest of the EU. I have heard there is a shortage of chefs throughout the world but I cannot necessarily speak to it. The Irish market certainly does have a shortage.

The Irish market definitely has a shortage.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Yes. It has a shortfall of 10,000.

Mr. Lynn said he has engaged with various Departments and their responses have been mixed. Is he saying his request is not being taken seriously by Departments or that the focus of the Departments is on other areas, which means the hospitality sector is lower in their pecking order?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I would say so. They have been very engaging. With regard to the changes and allowances we are asking to be made to applications, the legislation is quite tight on what is and is not allowed. It is more that their hands are tied. On the second part, I believe that hospitality is a Cinderella industry. It is an afterthought much of the time. The fact that the expert group on future skills needs, EGFSN, does not have a focus on hospitality shows this quite clearly. It is not necessarily an issue at ministerial level, it has more to do with the Government's overall view of the sector.

Mr. Lynn mentioned that the Employment Permits Act 2006 applies to nine different permits. Does Mr. Lynn believe a specific permit for the hospitality industry would speed things up and could be more effective?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Yes. The overall resolution for our industry is not to bring in chefs from overseas. It is to encourage our youth to immerse themselves back into the hospitality industry and take pride in it. We are at a critical moment and we need chefs on the ground. We need more than chefs. The petition is specifically aimed at chefs but the hospitality industry in general is under severe pressure in terms of bodies. Chefs are already on the general permit list, which is great, but it takes four or five months to get them here. If they were on the critical skills list this would reduce to four to six weeks. This would have a significant impact. As an aside, the rest of the hospitality jobs are not even on the general skills list. We cannot bring in housekeeping operatives, receptionists, waiters or bartenders from outside the EU. They are ineligible and it is a crying shame.

Mr. Lynn has advised us it is costly to follow the process to advertise for a chef on the general skills list. Will he give us an idea of the expense involved as it stands?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Apart from the administrative costs of the advertisement, the only one that costs money is the newspaper advertisement. Partly because there are not huge sales of newspapers any more, the price has drifted downwards. It costs roughly between €150 and €200 to place an advertisement with a national newspaper. It used to be much higher but thankfully it has decreased. This is the main cost. EURES is free.

In October 2021, 350 general employment permits were provided for hospitality but only managers were on the critical skills list. Why is it only managers? Prior to Covid the hospitality sector in the country was huge, with more than 260,000 people working in the industry. I would like to know where they have gone. We are speaking about chefs of all things. As a country we have an amazing reputation, even for beach trucks and tuck trucks and so on. In any town or village in the country some fellow will say there is a famous chef here or there. Why are chefs not on the critical skills list? It the job not attractive enough? Is it that the pay is not strong enough? Would putting chefs on the critical skills list set a certain bar whereby they must be on certain wage rate? Would it pump them up? Would it be a regularisation? Would it make it more attractive for chefs to come in?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I would imagine an exception was probably made for managers because of a lobbying effort. I do not know the details of it. The hospitality industry needs far more than chefs. We deal with the largest hotels in the country and they want people at every level. There are not people for the jobs. Why is hospitality not attracting people? Covid had a big impact on the number of people involved. I do not think wages are high enough throughout the industry, including for chefs.

That is not necessarily something that we are here today to solve but I do feel that. It is quite a maligned industry in general. I do not think that we appreciate the chefs of the country as we should. We all love a celebrity chef and they are some of our most popular television personalities. There might be a chef here or there in a town or village with a good following and reputation whose name proceeds them but that is not always the way. It is a noble and altruistic discipline and a vocation for many people. That is often used against them. If someone is committed to a life as a chef there are not many other things that they want to do so maybe the wages do not chase the dream.

I apologise as I have to go to another meeting. I am sorry I was not in for the beginning of Mr. Lynn's presentation. We are going from A to B to C today. It is just a very busy period. I assume he is involved in the hospitality business. I have not met him before. What Mr. Lynn is saying is very true. Look at what Fáilte Ireland said earlier this year. There were 40,000 vacancies in the tourism industry and 10,000 were for kitchen staff. I think that was in the spring of 2022, and they reported that 88% of employers in hospitality were having these difficulties. I know from my own county of Roscommon there are people, particularly in family hotels, pleading with me every second day of the week. They are having to close what are, in most cases, very good premises because they cannot get chefs in particular. In one case, the hotel was asked to dedicate a few rooms to the unfortunate Ukrainian people, they managed to get a wonderful young chef from Ukraine which was a very big plus. The language barrier was an issue, without doubt, but they managed and they worked their own-----

Mr. Paddy Lynn

The Senator raises a fascinating suggestion. The Ukrainians were given PPS numbers. More power to them. It is great to have them here. It is superb. It is possible to make things happen quickly. We can do it. It is, 100%, an issue all over. On 25 May, the LVA told a joint committee that one third of hospitality staff are gone. That is vast. It quoted a figure of 260,000.

I spoke with a hotelier on Newstalk two days ago. She was unaware that chefs were not on a critical-skills list. The owner of Matt the Thresher, where I worked for ten years, was also unaware. It has only become an issue since Covid and this mass exodus of people. We have not needed critical skills at this level before but we do now. The only way to solve it quickly is by their addition on this list. The only real barrier is the third level thing. We analysed the chefs on our database currently and 60% have third level education. There is great quality in the ranks of our chefs. They are not Irish and I wish they were. They are people from overseas, outside the EU. They have great English as a second language. Everyone can interview strongly. Most have super hotel backgrounds and college experience plus work experience. They are raring to come here. They want to come here but the only barrier is the timeframe. The hotels cannot wait four or six months for staff to come in. They cannot predict that far ahead, as much as they would want to. They are running a day-to-day business. The chefs have to make decisions about what they will do. Khairul who is with me today has six children and a wife. He is from Kuala Lumpur. He has travelled the world as a chef for many years. He is interested in exploring the world. His wife and children do not intend to come here. His wife is an accountant who works at state level and the six children are various ages. The goal is not to move everyone here. I am not saying that is the case for all of our chefs but they want to bring their skills here for a period at least. All we need to do is to make that more easy to achieve.

I was going to make the point that we can do this with Ukrainians, and that is great. I am delighted and that family hotel is thrilled it could place that young lady in a job. Despite the language barrier, things are working out pretty well. It shows we can do things.

We need to get chefs onto that critical list. We are only seeing the nub of the problem now and if we do not deal with it, we will see serious closures in the hotel sector. As I said, some fine family hotels are closing two days a week. That never happened with these hotels but they have to do it now because they cannot keep the staff they have working seven days a week. Many of them are exhausted as it is. Therefore they have decided that they must give a day or two off so they must close the hotel. I know it saddens them greatly when they have to put a sign up saying, "Sorry, due to staff shortages we are closed Monday and Tuesday". It is not good for tourism or for any town or village. Many people from abroad are travelling around this country. They are coming from every country in the world. There is a huge number of tourists here. If they come to a town or village and the hotel is closed, it does not look great. I agree with the sentiments Mr. Lynn is expressing. While I accept there are one or two little issues we need to solve, it can be done. If we can do it for Ukrainian people, we should be able to do it.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Super. I thank the Senator.

Senator Buttimer is next. We cannot hear him.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I might talk on the Ukrainian issue while we are waiting. It is absolutely fantastic that we have such an influx of people. They are suffering from psychological trauma. We have made efforts to place people from Ukraine in communities. We do that at no cost and we want to get as many in but they are dealing with other issues as well so they are not ideally poised for the task but they will be in future.

I think Senator Buttimer has gone for a vote in the Seanad. I have some questions. Although the hospitality sector was supported during the pandemic, does Mr. Lynn think that it is properly valued in this country?

I see Senator Buttimer but he is still on mute and we cannot hear him. Maybe he can run down to the committee room. I see there was a vote in the Seanad.

Is the hospitality sector properly valued in this country?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

No. It is incredible that our national motto is céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes. Hospitality is the core of that welcome. We are masters of it as Khairul will stand testament to. He has only been here a short period but has already realised that the way Irish people welcome others into the country is remarkable. I do not think we really appreciate that fully on a financial, salary level or at legislative or government levels. One thing that was raised with the Licensed Vintners Association and the Vintners' Federation of Ireland was that we fall between many stools. That was Deputy Niamh Smyth's comment. She said that hospitality falls between many stools in Departments and there is no overseeing Department, which covers the whole thing. I spent the period building up to this meeting trying to find out who I approach for movement. It is hard to find the main root of the issue or to have that conversation. It is fabulous to be here and able to do that. Maybe from here it can be spread further.

In Mr. Lynn's statement he said that the expert group on future skills needs made no mention of the hospitality sector. Has he any thoughts as to why it did not? It seems like it should be at the top of the agenda.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

A neighbour of mine is highly positioned in a regulations committee and has regularly spoken here. It was he who advised me to find out where the advice for the Government is coming from. That led to my discovery of the expert group on future skills needs. I assumed I would then find reams of reports and work done on hospitality needs but it is just not there. I absolutely agree that AI and zero carbon are important issues but so is hospitality. I wrote a small piece on it being a Cinderella industry. I like the idea of the title and I think it very much fits hospitality. We are expected to do all the warming and welcoming things, the cooking and cleaning and plámásing but we are not paid or respected for it thereafter.

I think Deputy Buckley said earlier that there are 20,000 to 30,000 people in the sector and they are talking about a shortfall of 10,000 but the expert group did not put it into its document.

Mr. Paddy Lynn


When Mr. Lynn is taking on staff, what qualifications does he look for? Many of them would be self-taught. Some of the Michelin star chefs would say they are self-taught. Does it pose complications for vetting the skill levels of an applicant?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

My business partner, Rowan Lynn, is a very well trained chef. He trained under Kevin Thornton in the Fitzwilliam at sous chef level.

A good Tipperary man from Cashel.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Yes. Rowan has lived in Bangkok for nearly eight years now and runs a cooking academy there. When I first mooted the idea of the project, wehavechefs.com, it did not immediately strike him that it would be doable. I knew the skill levels were out there. We started with Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. They are very highly appreciated courses built for the service industry and there is great respect for-----

I am sorry, we are having some trouble with the microphones. We will have to pause for a moment.

Sitting suspended at 2.15 p.m. and resumed at 2.17 p.m.

How many chefs has Mr. Lynn recruited and where have they come from in the world?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

We are at roughly 60 chefs at the moment. We have been functioning since September of last year. We placed our first submissions and applications for work permits in December. We have six chefs on the ground and about 20 work permits through currently. It is a two-step process. There is the submission of the work permit application. Once that has been received, it goes to visa application. They have to do two levels as well. Then it is a case of asking, "How long is a piece of string?". We have had direct contact with the embassies in the countries we deal with and asked for expedited methods, which do not exist. We are waiting eight weeks for Filipino visas to come through. We are waiting three weeks for Thai visas, which is pretty good. Malaysians are visa exempt which is perfect. Once their work permits come through they can move straight away but that varies as well. Demand for our product is strong. We are as transparent as we can be on timeframes. It does not work for everybody. It is something people do not quite believe in yet. I think it is the only real solution for the immediate issues. We work from start to finish to get the job done. We have worked out how to do the process and how not to do it. It can be very fraught with refusals and flaggings. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has been very engaging but there are issues within the format of the processing. There are also things that are being missed. We are getting refusals on paperwork we have sent in. We are having to resend the same paperwork two and three times before we get the approval. It is extremely frustrating but we push hard. We are committed and it is our entire business operation. We believe in what we are trying to achieve.

The witnesses will have to excuse my ignorance on this; I can cook but I would not class myself as any kind of chef. On the general skills list, cooks are classed as ineligible. What is the difference between a cook and a chef? Seeing as we are talking about Michelin star people being self-taught.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

You tell me. I do not know. In certain countries they use the word "cook" as an authoritative title.

So I could be classed as a chef in some countries.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

They are not called cooks here. We look down on the word "cook" for whatever reason I do not know.

It is not my area of expertise. As the Chair knows, legislation is clear, tight and crisp, so adjustments need to be made. The wording in some of the legislation relating to the issue is wrong. Coaxing in that regard could address some inadequacies in the process.

Will Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan walk us through the process he went through when seeking employment in Ireland?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

The steps from when Khairul engaged us and how he got here.

Mr. Khairul Nizam Bin Nayan

When I applied for this job after I came back from Japan, I had an interview with the head chef. The second step involved an interview with hotel management, HR and the general managers. Either we are qualified to become team members for the hotel or we are not. After a few stages, we were selected equitably according to our skills and experience. It took a couple of months last year if I am not mistaken. The approval came one or two weeks ago. I booked a ticket from Kuala Lumpur and came here. I want to share my experience. I am a qualified chef. I worked everywhere in the world. I just came back from Japan, where I had been setting up a nice hotel and restaurant that sells Asian food, which people in Japan really love. I wanted to do the same thing here because I love Ireland so much. It is like a first love. I love the people here and I love the country. That does not mean I want to stay here. I want to share my experience and expertise. I have been in this industry for over 26 years.

There would not be any issues in communicating because English is our second language in Malaysia. We study it from kindergarten through to high school, college and university. It is always our second language. Most chefs can speak English fluently. We communicate easily, especially with people in Ireland. I had studied English for more than seven years when I finished high school. I had been selected for a scholarship from royalty in Malaysia, so I stayed there for almost seven years. It is a nice country but after I googled Ireland, its history and people, I started to fall in love with it. I wanted to come and share my expertise and experience as a chef. I really enjoy-----

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Khairul was willing to wait.

Mr. Khairul Nizam Bin Nayan

Yes. I was willing to wait for almost six and a half months if I am not mistaken.

I was going to ask Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan what motivated him to come. He seems to have fallen in love with the country. Has he been here for long?

Mr. Khairul Nizam Bin Nayan

I arrived about a week ago.

I listened to how passionate Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan is. We need a strong hospitality sector that complements the tourism sector. That is a no-brainer. I was lucky enough to watch maybe an hour and a half of the pro-am in Adare during the week. There was general commentary from all the television stations about how the people reacted, how the crowds in Ireland, the scenery and so on are different. I understand how one can sell tourism, which is a huge industry in this country. If we does not have the hospitality sector to complement that, however, we will fall down.

I have an issue that relates to the Philippines more than Malaysia. We have a critical skills shortage in our fishing industry. It has been decimated, but that is a different story.

The Chair asked about a particular matter I am interested in. The witnesses set out clearly that this is not an excuse to jump ship and slip out under the radar. They are right. I wish I had the opportunity that Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan had. He has a special talent that gave him the opportunity to travel the world and share it with other people. As I said, in Ireland, we are not bad old grubbers. We like our food. Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan has opened my eyes to this. I will keep an eye on it. We will obviously discuss this afterwards. It makes sense if it speeds up and simplifies the process. As the witnesses said, there is a switch between the Departments, including the Department of Justice. Could that be streamlined? The Departments could work with the industry. If there is engagement, they will learn.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

The Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and the Minister of State, Deputy English, who represent the relevant Departments, have conversed with me about this. They want the changes to be made. They are trying to streamline the situation. I am not saying I know the answer. Donall O'Keeffe of the Licensed Vintners Association brought up tourism and hospitality. They are kindred spirits and go hand in hand. Hospitality is tourism and tourism is hospitality. They should be hand in glove.

I thank Mr. Lynn for his presentation. I heard him on Newstalk. To be fair, it is not only Ireland that has an issue with skilled workers in the hospitality sector. The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Harris, has a new apprenticeship plan. The issue of hospitality, bar management and executive chefs to level 9 have been included in that. Is that progress?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Hospitality is a heartfelt, vocational task and life choice. Chefs are integral to that. One either wants to do it or one will not do it. The best thing we can do is to get our youth on board, however that is achievable. It was remarkable to hear a McDonald's advertisement the other day. During it, there was advertising about becoming a chef as a child. That is a large international company commenting on the issue of chefs worldwide, not just in Ireland. Keeping people in hospitality is difficult. I cannot speak to the reasons why in other countries but we have to compete for talent here. We cannot all be the best destinations for tourism on Earth. Ireland is ahead of the posse. Now we just need to sustain our hospitality offering.

Mr. Lynn's final point is completely right. I thank our case manager for the extraordinary work in preparing for this petition. If the Department, which corresponded with us and which is headed by the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, reviewed or amended the critical skills and ineligible occupations list, what would the benefit be?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I am happy the Senator mentioned the ineligible list because that is also key. I did not want to overstep my remit today. From a chef's point of view, one cannot encourage people to come into an industry that is struggling and suffering.

When Mr. Lynn says struggling, what does he mean?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I mean the chefs, kitchens and restaurants. Chefs are under extreme strain because they are working too many hours. They do not have full teams available.

For all the passion and joy, if you do not have the skill level in the kitchen, you cannot maintain the kitchen. The head chefs are there; we have strong head chefs in most places, but they need understudies and sous-chefs and chefs de partie who can support them. If they are constantly drained because of the number of hours they are working and the failure of the restaurant they have taken so much pride in, it is going to slowly whittle away our industry. We Have Chefs brings fresh talent in. We are not trying to change Irish cuisine to Malaysian cuisine or Thai cuisine. We are injecting a skill set.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Precisely. Why not? We are injecting a skill set into the economy. One of the hotels at which we recently placed two Thai chefs has already, within a couple of months, said it is going to open a Thai restaurant on its premises.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

This is a long-standing hotel that has been in operation for generations. It is not a permanent change. This is temporary. It will have a Thai restaurant for ten years and then after that it might go back to an Irish traditional restaurant. What we need now is for the bodies to come in to reignite the stability of the hospitality industry. After that, we can take them back of the critical skills list, if needs be.

I will address the ineligibility list.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

We Have Chefs acquired wehavestaff.com because we said we want to move into that area as well because more and more positions need to be filled in many industries, although hospitality is mainly our focus. The ineligibility list rules out the majority of employees within hotels, restaurants, front of house and everywhere else. They are just not allowed in, full stop, even on the basis of general skills. Of course you want your céad míle fáilte to be Irish people, if possible. If it cannot be Irish people, then we have to bring in somebody to do that for us in the meantime and integrate their style of welcome into our country. The likes of Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan are warm people. They have the same aspirations for hospitality as we do. It is only an addition.

That is a fair point. My final comment is in the context of where we are today. We have had a very good engagement. I apologise for missing the private meeting yesterday. I suggest that on foot of today's meeting we look at the possibility of inviting in Fáilte Ireland, Adrian Cummins on behalf of the hospitality sector, and maybe the Minister of State, Deputy English, or the Tánaiste or officials from their Department to come before us to discuss matter this further.

Mr. Lynn is right. I thank all the people who work in our hospitality sector. Anyone watching or listening should understand that, as Mr. Lynn rightly said there, chefs, people who work in kitchens, kitchen porters and hospitality waitstaff often work in high-end, high-pressure, not-fully-staffed settings. We should thank them and acknowledge the work they do. To be fair, it is very easy for someone to go on tripadvisor.com and write a cranky review on the basis of a misguided engagement because, as I think we will all agree, 99% of the engagement is superb and the hospitality, whether it is the céad míle fáilte or whatever you want to say now, is excellent.

The one thing we must look at, which I know is not a matter for or today, is the cost factor. There is a debate we need to have regarding the cost factor, which is a different story. I thank our guests for being here. I commend those who work in hospitality and tell them that we hear their concerns here. I hope that at our next private meeting we can look at continuing out examination of this matter. Again, I apologise for my lack of technical know-how.

That is no bother. I think the Senator will get full support from all the committee in the context of what he said. We will definitely look at inviting the Department and Fáilte Ireland to appear before us. Deputy Higgins is next.

I thank the Chairman. I thank Mr. Lynn for giving of his time and sharing his ideas and expertise with us. This is something I am really in favour of. We need to be exploring this much more quickly because, as we all know, there is a shortage of workers in the hospitality industry right across the board, and that includes chefs. Adding chefs to the critical skills list would mean we would be able to attract more of them to our shores and that we would be able to provide better lifelines and opportunities to allow the industry to thrive. I am conscious we have gone through the time for this and we were due to start another petition a few minutes ago, so I will leave it at that. I thank both our guests for coming in and presenting the case.

I thank the Deputy. I think Senator Murphy referred to the fact that we have a shortage of 10,000 workers in the sector. If that continues, places will close. There is no doubt whatsoever about that, so Mr. Lynn will get support on what he is asking for. I call Deputy Ó Murchú.

I was having my own technical difficulties. I thank the Cathaoirleach and the committee for dealing with this issue . Fair play to Mr. Lynn. This is an issue about which we have all heard at constituency level. I got it from Mr. Lynn. There are a number of hotels and other businesses that are under pressure and that would have contacted me in the past while. We all know the importance of the hospitality sector to this State. It is a no-brainer that we have a problem. We have all done those clientelist fixes and gone to people within the Department, Ministers and whomever and seen those issues sorted. The fact that people are coming to us in the first place, however, indicates that the system is not fit for purpose. We all know there has been an insufficient amount done in the context of workforce planning and ensuring that people with the necessary skills are available.

I am looking for a very quick synopsis from Mr. Lynn of his asks. He is looking to move chefs onto the critical skills list but he also referred to the third level stipulation and some other difficulties. On the ask with regard to taking the Ministers and other stakeholders in, it is not that I am looking for the issue to be taken away from this committee, but the enterprise committee or somebody has to deal with this issue because there is an element of madness involved. This is another of those issues we have batted over and back. One would have thought the system would have caught it and fixed it, but it has not.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Fair point.

I asked whether this is cross-party or cross-committee.

It is cross-committee, yes.

That is not to take away. Senator Buttimer has played his part in the sense that this meeting is happening.

Former Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and I worked together when the health committee joined with the justice committee about the issue of drugs, with Deputy Stanton chairing. We could think about that again. It is an idea.

We can discuss that later.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

Deputy Ó Murchú has got the point across exactly right. It needs to be dealt with. It has been batted around. Who is in charge? I only mentioned the issue slightly, and Paul Clancy of the Vintners Federation of Ireland raised it too, but there has not been a study done on what the figures are. To be fully open, I might have made the 10,000 figure up. I do not know. I might have heard it somewhere else. Whose figures are we dealing with? The figure of 260,000 people working in the industry was mentioned by one party and 180,000 mentioned by another. There was a 40,000 shortfall and a 50,000 shortfall. We do not know where it i,s but it is definitely an issue. Every hospitality company in the country is struggling with staffing issues. There are not any defining figures on that but we need to find them. In the meantime, we can adjust some of the legislative barriers to fix the issue. There are only so many positions in a kitchen that need to be filled. There were five positions added to the general list, which were executive head chef, head chef, sous-chef, senior chef de partie and chef de partie. That is great. Unfortunately, commis chef is not on that list. The €30,000 threshold is the issue there.

One can pay, but people are not paying commis chefs more than €14.79 per hour. That is another conversation perhaps. Senator Buttimer referred to getting young people involved in the sector. They have to start at commis chef level. One cannot start somebody at chef de partie level. For now we can bring in chefs de partie. They are accomplished up-and-coming chefs as it is, so let us bring them in. However, the problem is deeper than that, of course.

The other one is the general skills permit for other hospitality jobs. That is key too. I did not want to explore that off my own bat today because it was not up to me, but it is very important that this is also done. The ineligibility list blocks applications for work permits from outside the EU entirely, so one just cannot apply for a housekeeping team from outside the EU. That obviously needs to be addressed.

The last one was the-----

There was the third level difficulty, even if one gets onto the critical skills.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

It is a little archaic to use third level as a measure of people's prowess generally, but I understand the reasoning behind it. As I said, 60% of the chefs we are bringing in have third level education, but that is beside the point because 40% of them cannot come in unless they have it, if they are added to the critical skills. It is the legislative change that needs to be made to add them to the critical skills list. It is just removing that wording.

In fairness, a promise has been made here to follow up on this and to ensure it is put before the correct people who can make it happen. Probably the best thing to do is that Mr. Lynn do a synopsis of what the actual needs are. Given that he is moving beyond needing chefs, it is those requirements. We know about all the businesses and industries that are crying out for people and cannot get them. If there are small fixes that can deal with visa issues or whatever, we need that done. That is along with the workforce planning. Some of it is beginning to happen. We must make sure we have the training roadmaps. They are all going to be very different because when we talk about third level now that includes apprenticeships which can suit particular trades, such as people who want to train up as a chef or whatever.

Again, I congratulate the committee for dealing with an issue that definitely has to be dealt with.

I thank the Deputy. After today the ball is starting to roll. As Senator Buttimer and Deputy Ó Murchú said, we now know who we can contact to get it across the two committees. Everybody recognises the situation in the hospitality sector and here is a solution to stop places closing down. We need to follow up on it with the other committee. We will ask the secretariat to make contact with it. Does Mr. Lynn wish to make any final comments?

Mr. Paddy Lynn

I thank the committee for engaging on this, from Ms Semple getting our petition through to this point. I understand that people have a lot on their plates, if the pun will be excused, but it is something that has to be dealt with. If it takes a conscientious interested party, so be it. We are here to push it through as far as possible.

On behalf of the committee I thank Mr. Lynn and Mr. Nizam Bin Nayan for attending the meeting today. It has been very informative and we have a path we can take now to see what we can do.

Mr. Paddy Lynn

We appreciate that.

We will suspend the meeting to allow the witnesses to leave and to bring in the next witnesses.

Sitting suspended at 2.44 p.m. and resumed at 2.47 p.m.