tánaiste exploitation irish fishing

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar believes there is ‘very serious exploitation’ of migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry

Under questioning yesterday, Wednesday 05 October at the Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that he was in no doubt that there was ‘very serious exploitation’ of migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry. 

The Tánaiste was taking a question from Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, in relation to the government’s timeline for bringing in legislation to protect fishermen under the Organisation of Working Time Act, as promised by the Fine Gael government back in 2019. Although he said the current government is committed to reforming the Act, he was unable to give a commitment to a timeline as it was Minister Damien English who was dealing with the issue. 

Asking the question of Mr Varadkar, Senator Gavan asked: 

“My second question relates to a commitment that was given by Mr Damien English earlier this year in relation to amending or dealing with the fact that fishers can’t currently take cases under the Part II of the Organisation of Working Time Act, and there’s been some chilling cases in relation to exploitation of fishers. 

“There’s one on the WRC website just put up yesterday in relation to a fisher called Jose Pame Salandron, and he was awarded just under (€)14,000 because he was made work 80/90 hours a week on the boat. It’s all documented but because of the gap in legislation most of that award was actually taken off and from the Labour Court. 

saltwater marketing
the fishing daily advertise with us

“Now the good news is as far back as 2019, your Government made an agreement with the ITF that they would actually legislate but it’s implementing legislation to allow fishers to take cases, but nothing has been done since. Damien English said earlier this year that we have legislation by the springtime but it still hasn’t been seen I just want to have a clear commitment Tánaiste and a timeline for when this legislation is going to appear because we’ve had very powerful presentations from the ITF on two occasions here in this Committee detailing shocking exploiters of abusive vicious the most horrendous kind of abuse and indeed that case I cite from the WRC is one of those, 70/80/90 hour weeks.  

“I understand that that there may well be a case taken against a state seeking Frankovich damages in relation to that. What I can’t understand is why 3.5 years after an agreement with the ITF that there’s no legislation very simple legislation to bring forward still from the parliament. So I’m really welcome a positive response from you and a timeline as to when this issue will be dealt with to protect some of the most vulnerable migrant workers in the State.” 

Replying to the question, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: 

“I’ve absolutely no doubt that there is very serious exploitation in the fishing industry, and it’s mainly not our citizens who are being mistreated in the way they are, and it needs to be stamped out. Because it’s not an area directly under my remit would like to do is just confirm this section and maybe come back to in writing.” 

Senator Gavan continued: 

“I am genuinely concerned by that because you own minister was on the record on the PQ earlier this year saying that we’ll have legislation by springtime, so he’s made that commitment but here we are 3.5 years on, and I accept what you’re saying in terms of your concerns as well listen no one wants to see this horrendous exploitation this simple change like a massive difference.  

“Who in your government is going to take ownership and deliver that change. Surely as Tánaiste, you should be able to make that commitment to me.” 

The Tánaiste responded: 

“As I said, it was commitment made by Minister English and he’s not here. I don’t want to respond on his behalf, but I will confirm with them I’m in section and we’ll respond in writing.”

Follow The Fishing Daily

Tánaiste believes ‘very serious exploitation’ in Irish fishing industry

by editor time to read: 7 min