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worker rights

Migrant fishermen working on Irish boats suffer exploitation and 'get average pay of €2.82'

One in four fishermen have experienced verbal or physical abuse, according to a new report.

MIGRANT FISHERMEN WORKING on Irish boats are subject to severe underpayment, discrimination and exploitation, new research has found.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) research, which included in-depth interviews with over 30 fishermen, found that the majority (65%) work more than 100 hours a week.

Workers receive average pay of €2.82 per hour, and 40% do not feel safe at work, according to the organisation’s survey.

One in four fishermen have experienced verbal or physical abuse, according to the survey while one in five have experienced discrimination and racism.

The Irish fishing industry has faced criticism in recent years over the treatment of workers in the industry.

Irish fishing industry

In April, an investigation found that a quarter of Irish fishing vessels that were inspected by the State were caught with illegal workers on board last year.

There are also suggestions that thousands of undocumented workers could still be employed in Irish waters.

In July of this year, over 100 Irish fishing vessels were also found to be in breach of a scheme set up to protect foreign staff working on their ships.

“Ireland cannot be proud of the food we produce unless we respect the people who produce it,” said Edel McGinley, MRCI Director, adding:

“Fishing is a tough job in a complex industry, and it’s even more difficult and dangerous for migrant fishers enduring chronic underpayment and shockingly long hours.”

In 2015, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper found that workers from Africa and Asia were routinely being employed illegally on Irish fishing trawlers and were being exploited as a source of cheap labour.

Working scheme compounding problems

Following the revelations, a government task force was set up to tackle the issues in the Irish fishing industry, however this new report reveals that the Atypical Working Scheme developed by the task force has in fact compounded problems.

“As a result of this scheme, these skilled and experienced fishermen are being paid minimum wage for a 39-hour week – while, like all fishers, working much longer hours. This means their actual hourly pay is less than €3,” McGinley stated.

“This must be an immediate priority for Minister Heather Humphreys. people need to be sure that the Irish fish they buy is exploitation-free,” she concluded.

The MRCI report recommends that the Atypical Working Scheme should be replaced with an immigration permission that ensures non-EEA fishers are paid equally and can move freely between employers.

It also recommends that specific regulation be implemented in the form of a sectoral employment order or Joint Labour Committee, which would set out terms and conditions for workers. The report also stated that one body – the Marine Safety Office -  should have responsibility for coordination of compliance in the sector.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have been asked for comment on the report.

‘The system is a joke’: A quarter of Irish fishing vessels caught with illegal workers>

Read: Over 100 Irish ships have violated a scheme that protects foreign fishermen>

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