Non-EEA fishermen to receive enhanced employment protections following settlement of human trafficking case

Non-EEA fishermen are to receive enhanced employment protections following a mediation agreement between the International Transport Worker’s Federation and several Government departments in a High Court case relating to human trafficking and labour exploitation on Irish fishing boats.

The ITF brought proceedings in the High Court for suspension of the grant or renewal of work permits under the atypical work permit scheme for non-EEA fishermen.The case arose when individuals were identified as having arrived in Ireland under these permits who were subsequently severely exploited in conditions akin to modern slavery.  Many undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian and Indian fishermen were brought into the Republic through Britain, and it was reported that fishermen worked on average 116 hours per week but paid an average of €2.83 per hour. They were also subjected to racial abuse and assault.

The main points of the agreement include:

  1. Individuals who obtain a permit under the atypical work permit scheme are to be given a contract of employment both in their native language and in English. The contracts must state the individual’s wages, their working hours and rest periods. The letter of approval is also to be in the individual’s native language.
  2. The individuals are to be provided with a link to a webpage that explains their right as an employee. The letter of approval is also to state where employees can make a complaint if any of their rights are breached.
  3. Employers may not recoup the costs associated with the application under the scheme from the employees’ wages.
  4. Employment permission will not be granted to an individual unless they have a contract with a specific employer. Non-EEA fishermen may transfer to another employer without the permission from the current employer.
  5. If a fishermen leaves their employment before the end of their one year contract, they will be required to send details of their new employment to the Department of Justice and Equality within 28 days.
  6. EU Directive 2017/159 is to be transposed into Irish law by November and will govern the maximum hours of work, minimum hours of rest and manning requirements aboard commercial fishing boats.
  7. The relevant bodies (the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office, and the Department of Justice and Equality) are to liaise with each other to ensure the enforcement of S.I 709 of 2003 relating to the hours of work and rest on board fishing vessels.
  8. The Oversight Committee, chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is to meet regularly to monitor the scheme.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission exercised its function as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case, building on its recent anti-human trafficking work.

Click here for the ITF’s press release.



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