The “Experiences of non-EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Industry” report suggests that workers experience poor working and living conditions
The Maynooth University report “Experiences of non-EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Industry” suggests that immigrant workers experience racial insults, verbal abuse, below average wages and extremely long working hours.
The study was carried out by Dr Clíodhna Murphy, Dr David Doyle and Stephanie Thompson in the Department of Law at the University and was funded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The researchers claim the objective of this socio-legal research study is to assess the current working conditions, immigration status, and experiences of enforcement of non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers in the Irish fishing fleet. This is achieved through the analysis of in-depth interviews with 24 non-EEA workers currently employed in the fishing industry.
The analysis draws on semi-structured interviews conducted with 24 male migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry. Over half the participants had lived in Ireland for 10 years or more. The interviewees were highly skilled fishers and collectively had over 200 years of fishing experience.
The Key Findings of the Experiences of non-EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Industry Report
Extremely long working hours with few breaks, very low wages (often below minimum wage given hours worked), and racist insults and verbal abuse were the common workplace experiences of the majority of those interviewed. Important findings on working conditions include the following:
1. Over two thirds of the participants observed that they could work between 15 and 20 hours a day.
2. Just one third of participants reported feeling safe on the vessel, although some pointed out that fishing is an inherently dangerous occupation.
3. Over half of the participants had been subjected to racial and verbal abuse.
Some participants (5 in total) reported being satisfied overall with their working situation: the key challenge for these individuals was uncertainty around their immigration status and a lack of freedom to change employer or sector.
All but two of the interviewees who had been in Ireland since before 2016 indicated that conditions in the sector had worsened overall since that time. The interviews reveal that the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) permission (under which the worker is contracted to an individual employer), and the necessity to renew this permission each year, can be used by employers as a means to threaten and exploit workers.
Less than half of the interviewees recalled boats being inspected by the Workplace Relations Commission or anyone else asking about work-related issues. Fear of losing one’s job and work permit, along with language barriers, were key challenges for workers to engaging with employers or inspectors to seek better working conditions.
The Key Recommendations from the Experiences of non-EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Industry Report
- Immigration-related recommendations (to be read together):
- Facilitate access for undocumented migrant fishers to the Department of Justice’s planned regularisation scheme.
- Allow applications to vary Stamp 1 permission to Stamp 4 (in accordance with section 4(7) of the Immigration Act 2004) and expedite the consideration of such applications for variations of permission.
- If the AWS is to be retained:
- AWS permits should be granted for the sector rather than tied to an individual employer.
- Review and overhaul the model contract used in the AWS.
- The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport (MSO) should perform more outreach work and speak directly to migrant fishers in private as a matter of course. Inspectors monitoring workplace conditions should be accompanied by trained interpreters when interviewing migrant crew.
- Remove legal barriers to claiming employment rights for undocumented workers.
- Consider an expanded role for non-governmental organisations in the sector to support workers to make complaints.
- Investigate and pursue the issue of under-crewing of vessels.
Read the full report by clicking here.