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'Some navy officers rescuing migrants from the Med are on the minimum wage'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he has “no intention” of allowing the Defence Forces access to the Workplace Relations Commission or the Labour Court.

11/5/2015 The Naval Service flagship the Helicopte LE EITHNE Source: David Jones

SOME NAVY OFFICERS involved in rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean are on the minimum wage, according to TD Mick Barry.

The AAA-PBP TD said members of the Defence Forces had contacted him after he raised their conditions in the Dail last week. Some were forced to rely on family income supplement for their wages, while others spoke of problems being able to afford rent.

Barry asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny today if the Defence Forces will be allowed to access the State’s industrial relations machinery in the same way as gardaí have been permitted.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had “no intention” of allowing it, stating that access to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court was made available to the gardaí on an “ad hoc basis”.

Since first raising the issue last week in the Dáil, the Cork North Central TD said he has been inundated with representations from members of the Defence Forces.

28/6/2015 The LE EITHNE successfully located and rescued a total of 593 migrants: from six separate vessels, 50 Nautical Miles north west of Tripoli, the Libyan capital this morning.​ Rescue operations commenced at 4 am Irish time when 101 migrants LE EITHNE successfully locates 593 migrants off the coast of Tripoli. Source: David Jones

“My office received a flood of responses from soldiers as well as naval and Air Corps personnel who told me in confidence of the wretched and illegal working conditions they are forced into.

“They feel an unjustifiable advantage is being taken of armed forces personnel by the government.”

Pay conditions

Barry told TheJournal.ie it was illegal for members of the Defence Forces to make public representations to TDs about their pay conditions.

The representations sent to Barry outline a number of issues members of the Defence Forces are unhappy with, including pay conditions, with some navy officers tasked with rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean earning less than the minimum wage.

Barry said a large proportion of soldiers are also on family income support.

He added that the two-tiered system found in the teaching and nursing sector is also present in the Defence Forces, with new entrants post 2013 earning just over €21,ooo.

download Enda Kenny in the Dáil this afternoon. Source: Oireachtas TV

Other issues raised include the travel costs associated with travelling to visit their families following the closure of army barracks, as well as breaches of the Organisation of Working Hours Act.

A case is being taken to the European Committee of Social Rights by the armed forces’ organisations – PDFORRA and RACO – seeking more rights.

Barry criticised the Minister of State with special responsibility for Defence Paul Keogh for stating in the Dáil last week that any soldier with grievances can approach him.

“How could he believe a new officer could approach the minister on his visit to the barracks when he is flanked by senior army officials on either side,” he said.

Pressure is now mounting on the government to deal with the cascade of pay demands from the public sector workers. Another public sector group – such as the army – being added to their list would not be welcome.

By refusing the Defence Forces to the same access as the gardaí to the Labour Court and WRC, Barry said the government were sending the signal that unions within the Defence Forces would also have to take “imaginative” action on behalf of their members.

“There is widespread discomfort within all ranks of the Defence Forces at being taken for granted,” said Barry.

If you are a member of the Defence Forces and would like to share your story about your working conditions in service, please email christinafinn@thejournal.ie in confidence. 

Read: Now it’s the private sector: unions demand 4% increase for all members>

Read: Just 29 gardaí tasked with tackling cybercrime despite surge in internet attacks>

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