Fruit distribution company Keelings has declined to confirm whether 189 Bulgarian workers flown in last week to pick this year's harvest are housed in single rooms while they are undergoing "restricted movement" before commencing work.
The company confirmed that all 189 workers flew in on one charter flight operated by Ryanair, but said that Ryanair could confirm that all regulations were adhered to.
Keelings, which requires 900 seasonal workers each year, also revealed that an additional 390 seasonal workers commenced work with Keelings earlier this year, arriving on commercial flights, and following all guidelines in place at that time.
"We will continue to do our best to recruit locally in Ireland and will follow, to the letter, what is required by the Government, HSE and HPSC and will engage in any new rules or guidelines," said the Keelings statement.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government is going to work with the agricultural sector to try fill vacant jobs for harvesting food with people currently resident in Ireland pic.twitter.com/DJHFhownGZ— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 20, 2020
On the issue of accommodation, Keelings said it could not disclose where seasonal workers were living, as it had a duty of care with all employees, and their privacy and safety are paramount.
The company said that all 189 seasonal workers were adhering to the required HSE restricted movement guidelines, adding: "For the period of the 14 day restricted movement we are ensuring now that groceries are being delivered to them."
Asked whether the workers were being paid for the two-week period of restricted movement prior to starting work, the company stated: "Seasonal workers will be paid in full while in restricted movement isolation."
The company would not disclose the rate of pay, saying that was private to each individual worker.
However, the company went on to say that all the workers are protected by local employment legislation in full up to and including EU working time directives.
Last Friday, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan expressed unease about transporting workers from other countries - a view echoed by the Taoiseach and Health Minister Simon Harris.
The Taoiseach commissioned a review of travel procedures over the weekend, which is to be discussed at today's meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19.
The Government is also due to commence a recruitment programme for the horticulture sector aimed at hiring people from the Live Register.
Earlier today, the Taoiseach said that if jobs could not be filled locally, a decision may have to be made to allow the crop to fail or to allow workers to come from abroad to harvest it.
However, he stressed that there would have to be very defined quarantine arrangements to ensure there would be no new Covid-19 clusters.
He also said that when the Government classified agriculture workers as essential, he did not envisage hundreds of such workers coming in from outside the country.