The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has accepted that a migrant fisherman worked for 427 hours in the space of just one month in 2020 and made an award for holiday pay.
The man told the tribunal he routinely worked 18 to 20 hours a day at sea on the trawlers Verlaine and Ocean Harvester II over six-day fishing expeditions when he was employed by their operator, OF Fishing Ltd, between 2018 and 2020.
The order for the payment of €350 annual leave money in respect of work in July 2020 was made on top of compensation of €6,476 for unfair dismissal in a decision published by the tribunal on Thursday.
The WRC found it had no jurisdiction to rule on further allegations of excessive working hours and the failure to provide rest breaks in breach of the European Working Time at Sea directive – or on a €37,000 claim for alleged back pay.
The tribunal upheld Habbib Kannas’s complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 against OF Fishing Ltd and found one breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 by the firm in respect of holiday pay for July 2020.
Mr Kannas (41), an Egyptian national and father of two, started work for OF Fishing Ltd in 2017 as an undocumented share fisherman – getting a cut of the profits – before his residency was regularised under the 2018 Atypical Work Permit Scheme for non-EEA migrant fishermen and he became an employee.
His pay claim was based on working hours calculations drawn from Mr Kannas’s recollections of typical working patterns and Naval Service tracking data.
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His trade union representative, Michael O’Brien of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said Mr Kannas had been underpaid by €18,626 in 2018 and by €18,883 in 2019.
Mr Kannas gave evidence of an alleged row with the boat’s skipper, whom he claimed had stopped him using the bathroom when he wanted to pray.
“I’m working for 18 hours straight – he wants to take the six hours as well. I was just late five minutes and he doesn’t want me to do my prayers. Since then he was treating me different and really badly then,” he said.
The skipper “was threatening to cancel my contract if I ever complain,” he added.
After taking leave to recover from a back injury in Egypt, Mr O’Brien said his client returned to Ireland in January 2021 only to find himself “strung along and fobbed off” by his employer when he looked to get back to work.
This was in spite of an employer’s duty under the work permit programme to pay for a 39-hour week, even if there was no fishing, Mr O’Brien said.
The adjudicating officer accepted Mr Kannas’s “uncontested” evidence in the absence of the respondent firm, which sent no representative to the hearing.