Call to loosen work-permit laws for non-EU nationals

Neale Richmond seeks longer list of jobs for which foreign workers might be eligible

Dublin Senator Neale Richmond: “There is an obvious gap in the workplace of skilled staff in the hospitality sector with trained chefs and experienced waiting staff increasingly hard to find for employers.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Dublin Senator Neale Richmond: “There is an obvious gap in the workplace of skilled staff in the hospitality sector with trained chefs and experienced waiting staff increasingly hard to find for employers.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A Fine Gael Senator has called on his own government to relax Ireland’s highly restrictive laws on work permits for non-EU nationals.

Dublin Senator Neale Richmond has written to Tánaiste and Minister for Business and Enterprise Frances Fitzgerald seeking to expand the list of occupations for which foreign workers might be eligible.

At present, the only categories of workers entitled to apply for work permits are highly skilled professionals, and those in the health services or technology, pharmaceutical companies or international finance.

Allowed professions include engineers working in chip design or process automation, IT specialists, web designers, medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and international marketing experts.

The excluded categories include most other sectors including hospitality workers, physiotherapists, social workers, opticians, farmers, secretaries, welders, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers and plasterers.

Shortage of workers

However, Mr Richmond said there were shortages of many of these workers in Ireland. He said it was clear the current lists were overly restrictive and not fully in accord with areas where there are dearths of workers .

“The current lists are understandably focused on highly skilled, high-wage, occupations that need to be filled but it is clear that there are many other, perhaps lower-wage, occupations that need to be added to this list in order to allow businesses to continue to provide the highest levels of service at competitive rates,” he wrote.

“For example there is an obvious gap in the workplace of skilled staff in the hospitality sector with trained chefs and experienced waiting staff increasingly hard to find for employers.

“The same can be said for construction workers, nursing staff, farm workers and cleaning staff,” he wrote in his letter.

He also said there was a lack of experienced and qualified book-keepers in Ireland. The department is currently reviewing its lists of occupations for which non-EU workers can apply.