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Saturday 26 May 2018

Non-EU farm workers must be paid at least €22k under new permit scheme

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A new pilot, quota-based scheme to address immediate labour shortages in the horticulture, meat processing and dairy sectors has been announced.

A quota of 500 permits has been granted for horticulture workers, 250 for meat processing operatives and 50 for dairy farm assistants from outside the EEA.

Under the scheme employers must commit that the permit holder has access to suitable accommodation, and training, including language training;

The scheme also sets out a minimum remuneration threshold of €22,000 for a General Employment Permit for this cohort of migrant workers.

Under the new scheme additional permit quotas may be granted in response to actions taken by the sector to put in place strategies to source and retain labour supply from both the domestic and European labour markets and to invest in innovative technologies for the sector.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation says this scheme for the agri-sector can be facilitated within the existing primary legislative framework, although an amendment to the Employment Permit Regulations 2017 is required.

Regulations to amend the Employment Permit Regulations 2017 are being finalised at present. The changes will come into effect from Monday, 21st May 2018.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed underlined the importance of a new pilot quota of employment permits for the agri-food sector.

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“This is a measured response to issues raised by the sector as the labour market tightens” the Minister said.  

Minister Creed said “the granting of a pilot quota of permits for the meat processing, horticultural and dairy sectors is timely and will go some way towards helping to fill the labour gap.

“I must emphasise that these permits are only one piece of the jigsaw with regard to labour supply. The agri-food sector, in line with the Food Wise strategy, must value human capital, and put significant effort into attracting, retaining and developing the best people to work in the sector”.

The Minister continued “the sector must also continue and intensify its efforts to source labour from both the domestic and EU labour markets.

“My Department will work closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to assist in these efforts.

“I am also hopeful that once the state opts into the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive, anticipated to be in June, eligible asylum seekers will have access to employment, including positions in the agri-food sector. This could prove to be another valuable source of labour and I and my officials are in discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in this regard.”

While the pilot allocation of permits for the dairy farm sector will go some way towards addressing the shortage of labour there, Minister Creed said that a more comprehensive response will be contained in report of the ‘People in Dairy Stakeholder Group’ which he established. This report is expected in the coming weeks.

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