1,500 non-EEA work permits available for meat plants

An additional 750 work permits for non-EEA (European Economic Area) citizens have been granted for meat processing operatives by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation – bringing the total number of permits for this sector to 1,500.

This number – which represents 10% of the current workforce – is six times as many permits granted as had been allocated to the sector in the original permit pilot scheme last year, which initially allocated 250 permits to the meat industry.

This was subsequently increased by 500 permits in August.

To date the Department of Business has issued 911 employment permits for meat processing operatives, up over 200 on the 710 that had been issued in November.

Recently the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, approved an additional 750 permits for meat processing operatives, bringing to 1,500 the total number of employment documents available for this sector, a spokesperson for the department confirmed.

The issue of these permits is subject to the existing terms and conditions of the pilot scheme.

Strategic priorities

The minister is cognisant that meat exports continue to rise, and it is vital that these key strategic priorities for the Government are not jeopardised by labour shortages, the representative added.

“Minister Humphreys has also recently written to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, outlining that the introduction of quotas for these permit types is intended to ensure that, in the longer term, strategies are put in place to source labour supply from both the domestic and European labour markets and to invest in innovative technologies for the sector.”

It was added that the recent report on the Review of Economic Migration Policy emphasised that economic migration alone is not a sustainable long-term solution to skills and labour shortages.

Economic migration

Migration can, in some circumstances, help to allow such shortages to continue in the economy and, if not properly managed, can constrain investment, according to the department.

Minister Humphreys emphasised that the ‘Employment Permits’ system is only one part of the response to address labour shortages.

As the total number for this sector now stands at 1,500, which is 10% of the current workforce, the focus must now shift onto the other strategies, to meet the labour demands of this activity, the minister added.