I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 63, 152, 154, 156 and 157 together.
At the outset I want to make it clear that lead policy responsibility for the fishing sector rests with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Furthermore, the atypical work permission scheme established following the 2015 Government Task Force Report on EEA workers in the Irish fishing fleet, is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS) on behalf of that Department.
As regards the monitoring and enforcement of the atypical scheme for non-EEA fishers, it should be noted that a number of Departments and State agencies are involved. These include An Garda Síochána, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, INIS, the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Naval Service, the Revenue Commissioners, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Workplace Relations Commission and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
While the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, and the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, are under the remit of my Department, they are independent in the conduct of their statutory functions. The WRC’s responsibilities relate to the enforcement of the Employment Permits Acts and employment rights legislation generally, including minimum wage legislation. The HSA is the enforcement agency under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and conducts inspections under health and safety legislation at all places of work, including fishing vessels while docked in harbour. It does not carry out inspections of fishing vessels at sea even when operating within Irish territorial waters.
The Marine Survey Office under the aegis of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has lead responsibility for fishing vessel safety, security and living and working conditions for the crew on board seagoing vessels. It is responsible for enforcing legislation in this context for seafarers and fishing vessel crew.
In response to the Deputy’s specific enquiries, it will be clear from the explanation provided that health and safety falls outside the remit of the WRC so the issue of resources at the WRC does not arise. Responsibility in this area rests with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), an agency under the aegis of my department. In relation to the recent unfortunate accident involving a non-EEA national on a fishing vessel, it is my understanding that the HSA is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of this incident in line with its remit under workplace health and safety legislation.
On the separate issue raised by the deputy of adequate training for WRC Inspectors to carry out inspections on fishing vessels, I can confirm to the Deputy that 9 Inspectors as well as a Regional Manager of the WRC completed comprehensive training in this regard. This was delivered by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara on safety at sea and sea survival techniques, including fire-fighting and first aid. This training was a prerequisite to the deployment of WRC Inspectors for on-board inspections and operations at ports and landing places as the WRC, like the HSA, does not undertake inspections at sea.
As regards the rate of inspections by the WRC since the atypical scheme commenced, the position is that WRC Inspectors have not traditionally had an active presence in the enforcement of employment rights and employment permits legislation in the fishing industry given the low incidence of employees in the sector, as opposed to fishers that are self-employed. Some 181 vessels on the Irish Fishing Vessel Register come within the scope of the atypical Worker Permission Scheme, with 174 of these vessels being active or operational. 165 of these vessels have, to date been inspected by the WRC and it is the intention, in the context of inspection activity more generally, to complete inspections of the remaining 9 vessels. In total, some 240 inspections of these vessels were undertaken by the WRC in the period July 2016 to 31 December 2017.
Insofar as compliance levels are concerned, 202 contraventions of employment rights and/or employment permits legislation were detected by WRC Inspectors in the period to the end of 2017: 29 or 14% of these contraventions relate to non-EEA fishers not having permission to work in the State. The core requirement under the atypical Scheme is for non-EEA fishers to have a letter of permission from INIS to work on a specific vessel or vessels. Other contraventions detected by WRC Inspectors include failure to keep records (35%), a failure to grant Public Holiday, Sunday Working and Annual Leave entitlements (19%) and failure to issue payslips (12%). Contraventions were detected in some 112 of the 181 vessels coming within the scope of the Scheme.