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PDFORRA: Rule forcing premature retirement of experienced soldiers makes 'no logical sense'

The annual conference of PDFORRA, which represents 6,500 military members, is taking place in Killarney.

Image: KFB

DEFENCE FORCES members who joined after 1994 must leave after 20 years if they haven’t been promoted to sergeant – which the organisation which represents rank and file members says strips the ranks of experience.

Mark Keane, president of PDFORRA, which represents more than 6,000 Defence Forces rank and file personnel, said the rule will deplete the military’s already struggling junior ranks. 

The rule means that those who have joined after 1994, and have not reached the non-commissioned rank of sergeant in 20 years, must resign. 

Figures released to PDFORRA show that the pace of recruitment is not keeping up with the amounts of resignations.

In 2020, 533 people were inducted into the permanent Defence Forces while in the same 12 month period 636 left. This translates as a net loss of 498 personnel over a five year period.

If the rule regarding post-1994 contracts is maintained, that could see 1,400 people leave the services in 2022 said PDFORRA.

Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference in Killarney, Keane called on the government not to discharge post-1994 personnel who are both medically and physically fit and wish to remain in service. These men and women are needed in our Defence Forces, he indicated.

“It makes no logical sense to discharge both medically and physically fit personnel from service,” he said.

“While Government will point to the need to have a healthy turnover of staff, current rates of enlistment and discharge show a net loss of approximately 500 personnel over the course of the last five years. This is simply unsustainable.” 

Keane says a change in the way soldiers live will ensure that the personnel will remain fit and healthy for frontline military service. 

“PDFORRA recognises the difficult nature of the work undertaken by our members, but also recognise the changes to lifestyle and medical and physical fitness that has taken place since these contracts were introduced in 1994.

“Government has recognised these changes across the wider public and civil service and elongated the careers of individuals in these areas,” he added. 

Clarity

Keane explained that clarity is needed for the personnel who have been left in limbo in regard to their futures. 

“Many are already leaving the Defence Forces as the economy begins to pick up and other employers are recognising the value of having former Defence Forces personnel.

“Security of tenure must be provided if we are to retain the invaluable pool of experience held by these personnel.

“I call on Minister Coveney to act in the best interests of the State and recognise the contribution made by these personnel to the overall national effort, as, if he applies the current terms of enlistment at the end of 2022 it will be a year that will potentially see the Defence Forces lose in excess of 1,400 personnel, as the average loss in approximately 600-700 per year without forced retirements.

“If forced retirements are imposed there will be a rolling loss coupled with these compulsory discharges that will decimate the Defence Forces.”

Pay review body

Separately, PDFORRA also called on government not to impose a pay review body on its members. It said that such a move would be in contravention of its members’ wishes.

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It said that any recommendations of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces which potentially impact on the pay/allowances and welfare of its members should be fully negotiated with the representative bodies, prior to coming into effect.

PDFORRA general secretary Gerard Guinan, said: “Members of the Defence Forces fought long and hard for the right of representation, and continue to fight to be allowed to affiliate to the Irish Congress of Trade unions.

“We are not going to see Government at the stroke of a pen negate that right for an equivalent body reflective of what exists in the British Armed Forces which has not been shown to be effective.

“PDFORRA can point to numerous reports by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body that illustrate the ineffectiveness of that process, as it relates to retaining personnel in service.”

The representative body has also called on the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to respect the findings of the European Social Rights Committee and the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to permit it to affiliate to the union ICTU.

 Guinan added: “PDFORRA, well in advance of the most recent pay talks, highlighted to the Minister the disadvantage that would be suffered by our members if we were to be excluded from ICTU prior to pay negotiations commencing.

“Despite what others may say, this is not about being unionised or the right to strike, which the Association has reassured military management and the Minister will not happen, it’s about being able to influence pay negotiations in some manner.”

President Michael D Higgins will address the conference later this evening. 

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