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Government says €10m boost to Defence Forces pay will make Irish military careers 'more attractive'

The increase comes following the publication of the report of the Public Services Pay Commission.

Members of the Irish Defence Forces.
Members of the Irish Defence Forces.
Image: Defences Forces

Updated Jul 4th 2019, 4:44 PM

DEFENCE FORCE MEMBERS are set to see an immediate pay rise following the Cabinet’s approval of an increased €10 million remuneration package this afternoon.

The increase comes following the publication of the report of the Public Services Pay Commission.

The pay rise will be seen in the Military Service Allowance – which is a unique payment to the Defence Forces – and which is being increased by 10%. No change is being made to the base pay to members under the new measures. 

The changes will see a boost in the pay for the vast majority of personnel of between €602 and €675 per year. 

The new measures will also see the Sunday premium rates returned after a 10% cut to allowances under The Haddington Road Agreement. This allowance was given for such activities as security duty, patrol duty allowance for sailors, the Army Ranger Wing Allowance, and explosive ordnance duty.

Reacting to the news this afternoon, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew PDFORRA said it will now take some time to study the report.

PDFORRA general secretary Gerard Guinan, who last week told politicians that moral in the Defence Forces was “on the floor”, today said he was unsure whether the new recommendations are enough to arrest the decline.

“While some of the recommendations made by the commission go some way towards meeting the terms of the submission made by our association, in other instances they fall considerably short,” Guinan said.

Our association has pointed out on numerous occasions that there must be some correlation between pay and hours worked. This requires the urgent amendment of the current rates of duty allowances.  

“The cuts to allowances and the failure to recognise the working time of members of the Defence Forces as a resource has resulted in the early departure of thousands of good men and women who were simply forced to leave for economic reasons. The defence organisation will regrettably take a long time to recover from these losses,” he added. 

Government reaction

Following the approval of his Cabinet for the new remuneration package, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believes the package will make Irish military careers “more attractive and sustainable”.

“The government recognised that there are particular challenges in relation to retention and so we asked the Public Service Pay Commission to consider these issues in detail,” Varadkar said.

Their recommendations, which are being accepted in full by government, will give Defence Force members more take home pay and these with sought after skills like pilots will be incentivised to stay on. This will make a career in the Army, the Naval Service or the Air Corps a more attractive and sustainable option.

“Defence Force members are already benefiting from pay rises under the public service pay deal and all those earning less than €70k will have their pay scales fully restored by the end of the Agreement in October 2020,” the Taoiseach added.

UN missions

The recommendations will also see Defence Force members who serve as peacekeepers in UN missions around the world receive an increase in pay. 

An officer who completes a six month armed peace support tour of duty overseas will receive a tax-free payment ranging between €19,000 and €20,400 in overseas allowances. Enlisted personnel will receive between €15,300 and €16,100.

For the Air Corps, the Service Commitment Scheme for pilots will be re-introduced. This will be worth in the region of €18,500.

All of these benefits are in addition to the Public Service Pay Agreement, which is delivering 6.4% to 7.2% increases, restoring pay for everyone earning up to €70,000, by October 2020.

The government believes the increases from this report coupled with the increases from the current pay agreements and newly introduced pay scales for 3 star privates will have delivered a 29% increase of starting salaries since 2016.

By the end of October next year, pay will have increased by 34% bringing the starting salary to €29,206. This is before duty allowances and tax-free overseas payments are factored in. 

Living on the breadline 

The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence recently heard from the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) about the staff retention crisis in the Defence Forces.

It pointed out that despite the recent high-profile recruitment drives in 2017 and last year, there was a net loss of 120 personnel in 2018.

“There were 256 discharges in the first four months of 2019. This is by far the highest figure since the reorganisation of 2012. In April 2019 alone, there were an unprecedented 86 discharges,” General Secretary of Raco, Commandant Conor King said.

He said members were “living on the breadline”, with some dependent on welfare payments.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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