The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, today (Tuesday, 4th July), that the current regulatory regime for non-EEA migrant fishers, on whom the Irish fishing industry depends, is not fit for purpose. At the hearing, ITF Co-Ordinator for Ireland and Britain, Ken Fleming, called for sweeping changes to ensure Ireland is compliant with its own labour laws and meets its European and international obligations.Fleming added that the ITF has evidence of widespread abuse of non-EEA fishers and repeated failures by the state agencies to enforce the permit scheme introduced by the Irish Government on 15th May, 2016, as an emergency measure to address the concerns of the European Commission over the abuse of migrant fishers. He said that many non-EEA fishers are worse off than before the scheme was introduced.The ITF is now considering the initiation of legal proceedings against the Irish Government, having exhausted existing remedies and being confronted by an institutional mind-set that is in denial at its own failure to vindicate the rights of this very vulnerable group of workers.Among the measures outlined by the ITF to tackle the abuse of migrant fishers are:1.     A moratorium on permits to out of country fishers to prevent the ‘churning’ of personnel and indefinite continuation of the current system of exploitation.2.     Removal of exemption from the permit scheme of vessels under 15 metres (over 80% of fleet).3.     A cooling off period to safeguard and regularise the employment of existing fishers.4.     Decoupling of the permit from a single specified employer to the fisher.5.     Enforcement of the state’s employment, revenue, health and safety laws by prosecuting non-compliant skippers and boat owners.6.     Reinstatement of health insurance cover for fishers, including provision for occupational injuries.7.     Simplification of Permit procedures so that applications can be made directly to a central registry that is open to public inspection and that a PPS number is attached to each permit.8.     Appointment of the MSO as the lead statutory enforcement agency, as it has the most expertise in this area and should be adequately resourced to do the job.9.     Inclusion of the ITF in a reconstituted Task Force as an equal partner so that its expertise and experience can be utilised to help make the scheme effective.10.  Facilitation of ITF inspections of fishing vessels to monitor and support effective compliance and enforcement.11.  Recognition of ITF inspectors as key witnesses in cases where prosecutions are brought against boat owners, when the ITF has been involved in the initiation of a complaint.12.  Ratification and enforcement by the Irish State of ILO Convention 188 concerning work in the fishing sector.  Read the full ITF Submission here