New government report recognises labour requirement for agriculture sector

Farming reporter

Reporter:

Farming reporter

New government report recognises labour requirement for agriculture sector

IFA President, Joe Healy.

Irish Farmer's Association (IFA) President, Joe Healy, has welcomed the Government report on the review of economic migration policy.

The objective of the review was to consider the rationale for the employment permit system where the economy is improving and the labour market is tightening, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

“As we approach full employment, Irish agriculture, especially our labour intensive and expanding sectors such as dairy, horticulture and pigs, have a genuine need of additional labour from outside the EEA (European Economic Area).  The introduction by Minister Heather Humphreys of a pilot labour permit scheme for the agriculture sector last May was a positive first step in this regard.”

Joe Healy particularly welcomed the recommendation to modify the 50:50 rule to extend the waiver to include all sole operators in expansion mode and to develop a seasonal employment permit to provide for non-EEA nationals to work here temporarily. Waiving the 50:50 rule would be very beneficial to the dairy sector, while the horticulture sector would benefit from a seasonal scheme similar to the SAWS in the UK or the RSE scheme in New Zealand.

Mr Healy said he was encouraged to see that the report indicated that where there were shortcomings in data used to identify skills or labour shortages in a sector, SOLAS would engage with the relevant Government Department.

IFA has previously identified this information gap in relation to the labour and skills shortage in the agriculture sector and it is critical that this is addressed going forward.

Regarding the pilot labour scheme which is currently in operation in the horticulture and dairy sectors, Mr Healy said the application process to obtain a permit is very onerous for individual farmers who have no access to a HR department, unlike larger companies. “It currently takes up to 12 weeks to obtain a work permit.  The Minister should reduce the time and simplify the process.”