PQ: Human Trafficking (Fishing Industry)

Tue, November 10, 2015

222. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when his Department first acted on reports of the trafficking of migrants to work on Irish fishing vessels and allegations of the maltreatment of workers, following investigation of these reports by An Garda Síochána; if there was any increase in the number of labour inspections carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission on fishing vessels as a result of these reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Inspection service of the Workplace Relations Commission is aware of the allegations in relation to Irish fishing vessels and a number of inspections related to this issue are presently underway, some in co-operation with other State bodies. The WRC does not comment on individual cases.

The enforcement of the National Minimum Wage, Payment of Wages, Terms and Conditions of Employment, Employment Agency and Employment Permits Acts in respect of workers employed on board Irish registered fishing vessels is a matter for inspectors of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). However, such legislation does not apply to persons classed as share fishermenfor Revenue purposes who are classed as self-employed persons rather than employees.

Marine Surveyors of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are authorised officers insofar as the enforcement of rest periods and the maximum working time of seafarers and fishing vessel crews are concerned. Inspectors of the WRC have statutory powers to share information and carry out inspections with other State Bodies and there has been increasing liaison in this regard in 2015 between the WRC and the Department of Transport insofar as inspections in the fishing industry are concerned. Inspection activity for 2015 shows a significant increase on previous years.

The WRC is represented on the cross-Departmental Task Force established by the Government to deal with issues highlighted by the Guardian Report on illegal migrant workers on Irish fishing vessels. The Task Force had its first meeting on 5th November.

The WRC also participates in the North Atlantic Fisheries Project, led by An Garda Síochána, which has been established specifically to identify and support victims of trafficking within the marine sector. This project brings a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to the issue, involving a broad range of competent State Agencies (including relevant marine, immigration and employment rights authorities) and civil society organisations