Permits for meat and dairy workers nearly filled – with review imminent

Work permits for employees from outside of Europe in roles in the meat processing, dairy farming and horticulture sectors are three quarters filled, with meat and dairy permits almost completely full, according to Minister for Business, Employment and Innovation Heather Humphreys.

The minister was responding to a parliamentary question from Waterford TD John Deasy on the matter, who asked if the quota of work permits has been taken up; and, if not, her plans to allocate the unused permits to pig farm production units that are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacant positions.

In reply, Minister Humphreys outlined that the scheme is in operation since May 2019.

A total of 1,479 out of the total quota of 2,050 permits have been issued to date, the minister said, breaking down into:
  • Meat Processing Operatives – 1,339 permits issued out of 1,500 allocated;
  • Horticulture – 91 permits issued out of 500 allocated;
  • Dairy Farm Assistant – 49 permits have issued out of 50 allocated.

Allocated following a review of data and the submission of a business case by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the quotas are specific to each occupation and are not transferable to any other occupation, the minister said.

“The role of pig farmer is currently on the Ineligible Occupations List; however, this may be reviewed in the future should the appropriate research and evidence indicate labour shortages across the EEA.

A submission was made to the most recent review of the occupations lists on behalf of the pig farmer occupation however available research does not indicate a shortage of labour in the sector.

“It is proposed that the sector provide more information, in particular detailed evidence of efforts to recruit from within the EEA for consideration during the next review,” Minister Humphreys added.

“This could include, for example, evidence of engagement with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection/EURES (European Employment Services) employment network.

“The views of the lead policy Government department for the sector; in this case, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, are an important part of the decision-making process.

“The next review of the Occupations Lists is due to commence over the next few weeks when submissions to the next public consultation phase will be invited from interested parties,” the minister concluded.