Farmers’ group welcomes ‘part-time farm work’ measures

The recent move to accommodate part-time work on farms by the Department of Social Protection has been welcomed by the Deputy President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack.

He added that the availability of labour is fast becoming a critical challenge for agriculture in Ireland.

McCormack said that the ICMSA had met with the then Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, last May and highlighted the issues where casual or seasonal work overlapped with the complexities of the social welfare system.

The deputy president elaborated, stating: “We pointed out the problematic areas of this ‘overlap’ that must be addressed to facilitate temporary and permanent labour – and we did specify the well-publicised difficulties social welfare recipients experience when they try and reactivate their benefits after a period of seasonal work.

Minister Varadkar – as he was then – was emphatic that there was a real drive on within the Department of Social Protection to streamline that process of leaving the welfare system for a short period for seasonal work and then re-entering afterwards.

“We also asked them to look at moving that part-time work stipulation for job-seekers’ allowance and see if it couldn’t be moved to a number of hours each day as opposed to the three fixed days.

“That would certainly make the situation more attractive to people thinking about part-time work on a dairy farm, for instance,” McCormack noted.

Pilot course beginning in September

Last week, the department revealed that a course which aims to train jobseekers and people in receipt of Farm Assist payments to become dairy operatives is to begin in September of this year.

An analysis of labour market needs for the local dairy sector was carried out by the South East Regional Skills Forum.

Following this analysis, the department is currently working with Teagasc, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), and Farm Relief Services (FRS) to highlight potential employment opportunities within the sector to jobseekers located in counties Waterford and Kilkenny.

A 4-week pilot training course, which will run on a part-time basis, has been developed to provide interested jobseekers with the necessary skills to be in a position to be employed as dairy operatives.

The department is currently contacting jobseekers in the region to invite them to learn more about this course and opportunities within the dairy sector.