The Government established an Interdepartmental Task Force, chaired by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to examine allegations of exploitative practices in the fishing sector. The 'Atypical Scheme for non-EEA Crew in the Fishing Industry' (‘Atypical Scheme’) was established with an objective to provide a way to minimise the potential for abuse of non-EEA workers by unscrupulous employers in the sector and to provide a mechanism to assist those migrant fishermen already present in the State to obtain employment in a lawful manner in 2015.
The Atypical Scheme introduced specific arrangements which ensure that such non-EEA workers are covered by the full protections afforded to all employees in the State. Consequently, only crew members who are engaged under a contract of employment by a vessel license holder are eligible. Such an approach ensures that workers have a right to a minimum regular wage and statutory conditions of employment. It also supports the various enforcement agencies’ ability to intervene effectively and address such abuses in the future.
The Atypical Scheme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality. It would refute any allegation that the Atypical Scheme ties workers to individual ships. I am aware of several cases whereby the Department of Justice has granted non-EEA workers permission to move to another employer/vessel.
It is worth noting that the purpose of the Atypical Scheme is to implement a comprehensive regulatory environment covering all aspects of employment of non-EEA workers in the whitefish fleet. A specific feature of the Atypical Scheme is that at least 50% of the members of the crew must be nationals of any of the member States of the European Union, this ensures that the non-EEA employees have a comparator with the workplace to help safeguard their rights.
My Department’s responsibility under the Atypical Scheme is that of enforcement of employment rights. The response to the special procedure of the UN Special Rapporteurs is coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My officials are contributing to that process and will provide a robust reply to allegations of Ireland’s failure to enforce employment rights under the Atypical Scheme.