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Written Answers. - Irish Ferries.

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 221. Mr. Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey  asked the Minister for the Marine Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett  if his attention has been drawn to the concern among the employees of Irish Ferries in view of the decision to lay off hundreds of workers for six months with effect from 3 November 1996; if he will meet the Seamen's Union of Ireland to discuss its demands in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17631/96]


 227. Mr. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  asked the Minister for the Marine Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett  the steps, if any, he will take, including the removal of subsidies and the use of foreign non-EU crews, to prevent the imminent shutdown of the Irish Continental Group's Rosslare to France sea route with the accompanying loss of up to 400 jobs in the northside of Dublin and Wexford. [17797/96]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett): Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 227 together.

I am extremely concerned about the recent decision of Irish Ferries which will result in considerable loss of employment in the Wexford area. It is my intention to assist in any actions, within my power, to address the issue. The background was dealt with in a previous debate on the Adjournment on 25 September. The Minister of State met representatives of the company on 26 September and expressed serious concern to them about the company's decision, which was taken in the light of the changing competitive environment on the continental corridor following the completion of the Channel Tunnel and other developments.

The issue of subsidies and the employment of non-EU labour is extremely complex. I understand that a complaint has been lodged in relation to subsidies being paid to a French company also operating on the continental corridor. It is my intention to monitor progress of this complaint in the EU Commission. I am also pursuing in the context of the Presidency a “level playing pitch” for State aid, which will be aimed at making clear where and how State aids, if any, can be permitted. I understand that the EU Commission will produce a draft of such guidelines in the near future and it will by my intention to progress them urgently in my role as President of the Council of Maritime Transport Ministers. As regards the employment of non-EU labour, I am pressing in the EU context to ensure that untrained or inadequately trained non-EU seafarers do not find employment on vessels plying EU [1583] waters. I am also pursuing possible concessions in the area of tax and PRSI for Irish seafarers, aimed at making their employment more attractive and enabling them to compete better in labour competitiveness terms, with other EU and non-EU seafarers.

I am deeply concerned at the loss of employment arising from the decision of the company in this instance. I will keep in close touch with the situation and as mentioned I am prepared to contribute to any action within my power to ameliorate the situation.

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