The issue of social protection payments for seasonal workers in the fish industry in Donegal has led to a clash between two Donegal TDs.
Last week Fine Gael TD and minister for state Joe McHugh announced that he had asked the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to examine the conditions for receipt of jobseeker’s benefit for seasonal and part-time workers.
The announcement led to Fianna Fáil TD Pat the Cope Gallagher attacking Deputy McHugh, saying the Fine Gael TD “simply does not know what he is talking about”.
The issue affects over more than 200 people in Donegal, including many small farmers, who work seasonally in the fishing industry.
In a statement Deputy Gallagher, Leas Cheann Comhairle in the Dáil, said: “I have met numerous seasonal workers personally regarding this issue – I know of 14 cases whereby the workers were left with no payment for a period greater than seven months, with another 22 cases where no payment was given at all, and even since the last six weeks tens of new cases are arriving.”
Deputy Gallagher said he is the only Donegal TD to have addressed the issue of seasonal and part time workers’ rights both at committee stage and report stage of the social welfare bill. He said this has resulted in getting the Minister for Social Protection and the department to initiate an immediate review of the entitlements and rights for all seasonal and part time workers.
“Therefore, the onus is now on all Donegal public representatives to utilise this
departmental review which I have secured to correct the anomalies, the unfairness and the rules which work against seasonal and part time workers, nothing is being sought here by these workers only their traditional right to security from social welfare when their employment ceases – and that is a basic right of any worker in this state.”
When asked to comment on the statement from Deputy Gallagher, Deputy McHugh thanked him and Deputy Thomas Pringle for raising the issue.
“Leo Varadkar has agreed to reviewing the situation with the seasonal workers and that follows a meeting with Michael Creed (the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine) with seasonal worker sin Killybegs a number of weeks ago and Minister Creed committed to impressing on Minister Varadkar the importance of supplementary income for small farmers who work in the fishing sector on a part time basis,” he said.