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Action on pay imperative if Govt serious about overhauling Defence Forces, PDFORRA insists

The group is holding its annual delegate conference in Ballybofey, Co Donegal.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Oct 2022

GOVERNMENT MUST IMMEDIATELY fully implement the findings of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces (CODF) around pay and conditions, a group representing enlisted soldiers has said.

PDFORRA is the association representing 6,500 members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps at non-commissioned officer rank.

The group is holding its annual delegate conference in Ballybofey, County Donegal. 

General Secretary, Gerard Guinan said PDFORRA has passed a motion calling on the Government to listen to their members and deal with pay and conditions to solve the retention crisis in the Defence Forces.

“Our members have endured years of hardship with report after report and commission after commission reporting on the perilous state of the Defence Forces.

“We have ships that cannot go to sea for want of crews, aircraft that are having to be serviced away from the Air Corps and increasing numbers of personnel who are being mandatorily selected for overseas service due to lack of numbers,” he said. 

Guinan explained that soldiers, air crew and sailors, that normally would volunteer for overseas service in places such as Lebanon and Syria, are now automatically selected to make up the numbers.   

The general secretary launched a stinging attack on Government’s commitment to national security. 

“It’s remarkable that despite the relatively positive pronouncements by the Commission that we continue to haemorrhage personnel from the Defence Forces at an alarming rate. PDFORRA is worried, with good cause, at the lack of movement on the issues of pay structures despite their recommendations in the Commissions report.

“When matters related to pay structures went before government there were numerous caveats and stays put in place. These are not the actions of a government committed to building a credible Defence,” he said.

The group is also calling on Government to engage with them on the issue of contract terms for personnel who have enlisted since 1994 and are Sergeants, Senior NCO’s and Technicians.

Mark Keane, President of PDFORRA stated: “While we welcome the movements made relatively recently by the Minister in extending the contract terms for Privates and Corporals who enlisted since 1994, our association is calling for urgent engagement on those other ranks who have yet to receive security on their contract terms.

“Discharging personnel of Sergeant rank at 50 and senior non commissioned officers at 56 years does not make sense. These personnel are both physically and medically fit and must undergo fitness and medical examinations on a yearly basis, which ensures their ability to perform duties.

“Presently, the Defence Forces are over 1,500 personnel short of their establishment levels, and in the area of Sergeants, we have over 400 vacancies from an establishment of 1,330. This is utterly unsustainable.”

Defence budget

Guinan said his group welcomes news of the increased defence budget and the “intent” to increase numbers in Defence by an additional 400 but said this will not be achieved unless there is “movement on pay and allowance rates”. 

At present, a cumbersome system for claiming sea-going allowance is causing significant disquiet among delegates. PDFORRA is calling for a reform of this system.

They are also calling for the introduction of Long Service Increments for enlisted personnel as recommended by the Public Service PAY Commission in 2019 and the CODF in 2022.

They have also said that the creation of a rank of Lance Corporal would be a positive measure.

PDFORRA said this would be a stepping stone for soldiers, with five years of experience, to make the move upwards in career progression towards Corporal and Sergeant ranks.

In the recent Budget 2023 announcement, the defence sector allocation was €1.174 billion.

This, the Government said, represents an increase of €67 million on the corresponding 2022 budget allocation.

The Department of Defence has said that this provides a financial platform for the Defence Sector to initiate the required transformation, as recommended by the Commission on the Defence Forces (CODF).

It will also assist, according to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, in bringing Irish Defence capabilities closer to European norms, while also ensuring the ongoing Defence Forces capacity to deliver on all roles assigned by Government, both at home and overseas.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney welcomed the increase of €35 million in capital funding, raising the overall capital allocation to €176 million, an increase of almost 25% and the highest ever capital allocation provided to Defence. 

Talks have concluded on a public sector pay deal with a 6.5% rise for all in the public sector.

PDFORRA’s sister body the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers has recommended their members to accept the pay deal. 

Minister Coveney and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Seán Clancy will address delegates. 

At the conference Coveney told delegates that he was introducing a range of improvements with regard to pay and conditions.

The Minister underlined the pay related elements of the CODF report, and announced that his Department will now proceed to immediately implement two of the pay-related recommendations of the Report.

This will see all personnel of Private three Star or Able Seaman rank be paid the full rate of Military Service Allowance. Also the requirement for that cohort to not benefit from increments for the first three years at that rank will be removed.

“These measures will result in the pay rates for Private 3 Star/Able Seaman in their first three years of service starting at €34,798 in Year 1, €36,128 in Year 2, and €37,353 in Year 3 of service,” he said. 

He also referenced the recently agreed extension to the Building Momentum Pay Agreement.

If ratified, this extension will further improve members pay, and allowances in the nature of pay, by 6.5% over 2022 and 2023. 

Meanwhile both RACO and PDFORRA have lodged a complaint with the European Committee of Social Rights regarding the State’s failure to pay Defence Forces’ personnel overtime.

The representative bodies have submitted a joint complaint on the lack of payments for extra work completed which they claim is in breach of the European Social Charter.

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