Farmers hit by shortage of workers amid low pay rates

Farmers face a labour shortage as poor pay and employment law breaches still plague the sector. Stock image
Farmers face a labour shortage as poor pay and employment law breaches still plague the sector. Stock image
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers face a labour shortage as poor pay and employment law breaches still plague the sector.

The Irish agri-food sector remains one of the lowest paying, while significant employment issues are highlighted as farmers struggle to find labour.

The latest figures from the Workplace Relations Commission show that more than 800 employees were affected in these businesses, with more than €56,000 in unpaid wages recouped.

Of the 48 agriculture businesses visited in 2017, 75pc were in breach of employment laws.

An acute lack of workers has also been highlighted as a significant roadblock for the agriculture sector.

Irish Farmers' Association president Joe Healy recently said Irish agriculture has a genuine need for extra workers from outside Europe as we approach full employment - and recovering EU economies have labour needs of their own.

According to an industry 'People in Dairy Action Plan', the sector needs to attract 6,000 people by 2025. It follows a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of dairy farmers who are becoming employers, with 25pc of Irish farmers now milking 100 cows or more.

It also says one of the biggest factors in attracting and retaining people is that dairy farms must be desirable places to work.

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In a recent Dáil exchange on the labour shortages, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said it is one of the downsides of an economy that is nearing full employment.

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher noted that the pay rates in the agricultural and processing sectors are on the lower end of the scale.

"That brings about problems with competitiveness straightaway. Equally, it causes problems in recruitment.

"When people are paid €9 or €10 an hour but companies and factories can pay more, people drift out of the agricultural sector," he said.

"The industry must become an attractive one so that people will want to forge a career out of it, not only by owning farms, but in all the sectors through to processing."

Teagasc's 'People in Dairy Project' noted that employee turnover is lower under conditions that included higher than the average pay rates in industry, flexible work hours and limited weekend hours.

Irish Independent


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