Additional 500 work permits for meat plan workers from outside EU
Minister extends pilot scheme following submission from Department of Agriculture
Changes to Employment Permit Regulations will make it easier for meat processors to source an additional 500 workers from outside EU and EEA. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
An additional 500 work permits have been approved for meat plant workers from outside the European Union.
The move follows on from a pilot scheme introduced to address employment shortages in horticulture, dairy and meat processing sectors last May.
It saw Minister for Business, Heather Humphreys, approve a quota for 500 permits for horticulture workers, 250 meat processing operatives and 50 for dairy farm assistants.
Ms Humphreys signed off on further changes to Employment Permit Regulations on Friday, which will make it easier for the meat processors to source the additional 500 workers from outside EU and EEA (European Economic Area) states.
A minimum remuneration threshold of €22,000 was introduced for all workers under the pilot scheme, with employers obliged to ensure access to suitable accommodation and training, including language training.
Ms Humphreys decided to extend the pilot scheme for meat processing operatives, following consideration of an evidenced-based submission from the Department of Agriculture.
She said: “The extension of the pilot scheme for meat-processing operatives will ensure that the sector’s immediate labour difficulties are addressed and the potential that a lack of available labour could constrict growth is minimised.
“I continue to be conscious that any changes to the employment permit regime must not disrupt the domestic labour market. In the longer term, sectors experiencing labour shortages need to take action to attract and retain labour supply from within Ireland and across Europe and to invest in innovative technologies for the sector,” she added.
A report of the review of economic migration policies underpinning the employment permit system has been submitted to Ms Humphreys. The purpose of the review is to ensure that current policies are fully supportive of the Republic’s emerging labour market needs.
The review, which was overseen by an interdepartmental group, makes recommendations for strategy on economic migration to meet the State’s changing needs into the future. Following consideration by the Minister, the review report is expected to be published.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the announcement was “a welcome response to the clear demand for labour that exists in this important part of the agrifood industry and will go some way towards addressing the significant shortfall that exists for general operatives in meat processing plants”.