Additional 500 permits granted for meat processing operatives

It has been confirmed today (Friday, August 10) that an additional 500 permits have been granted for meat processing operatives.

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, recently signed off on further changes to employment permit regulations – which will make it easier for the meat processing sector to source workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

These 500 permits are in addition to the 250 announced in May 2018.

Also Read: 800 agri sector work permits announced under pilot scheme

Minister Humphreys signed off on changes to the employment permit regulations to establish a pilot quota based scheme to address the immediate needs of the horticulture, meat processing and dairy sectors earlier this year.

She applied a quota of 500 permits for horticulture workers, 250 meat processing operatives and 50 for dairy farm assistants.

A remuneration threshold of €22,000 was introduced for these occupations, with employers obliged to ensure access to suitable accommodation and training – including language training.

‘Strong demand’

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation revealed that there has been a “particularly strong demand” from the meat processing sector, with all of the initial allocation of 250 employment permits for meat processing operatives set to be exhausted in the coming weeks.

Following consideration of an evidenced-based submission from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Minister Humphreys decided to extend the pilot scheme for meat processing operatives.

Commenting on today’s announcement, the minister said: “The extension of the pilot scheme for meat processing operatives will ensure that the sectors immediate labour difficulties are addressed and the potential that a lack of available labour could constrict growth is minimised.

With the opening up of new markets such as to China, it is critical that there are adequate numbers of trained staff to meet the demands of this highly lucrative market for Irish meat exports.

“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 said.

Economic migration policies

Meanwhile, the report of the review of economic migration policies underpinning the employment permit system has just been submitted to Minister Humphreys.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that Ireland’s current policies are “fully supportive” of Ireland’s emerging labour market needs, the department explained.

The review, which was overseen by an interdepartmental group, makes recommendations for a strategy for economic migration to meet the state’s changing needs into the future.

It is expected that the report will be published following consideration by the minister.