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Irish military officer group declares Defence Forces 'moving in wrong direction'

RACO will host Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and military top brass in Naas.

IRISH MILITARY OFFICERS are set to tell their representative group’s annual conference beginning tomorrow that the Defence Forces is “moving in the wrong direction” on workers’ rights and staffing levels.

The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) will host Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and military top brass tomorrow and Wednesday in Naas, Co Kildare. 

The body is to debate six motions, with the retention of personnel crisis forming much of the complaints by the members of RACO. 

Lieutenant Colonel Conor King, General Secretary of RACO, said that an issue that needs urgent attention is the failure by Government to implement European directives on working times. 

The Working Time Directive (WTD) is a European Union agreement in which workers cannot work more than 48 hours in a week along with other measures to validate their employment rights. 

The Defence Forces representative associations, RACO and PDFORRA, have been campaigning for the WTD to be fully adopted for Defence Forces members. 

An Garda Síochána implemented the directive ten years ago – however, despite talks, the Department of Defence have refused to do the same for military personnel. 

King said: “RACO is disappointed and dismayed at the approach taken by both Military Management and the Department towards the implementation of the WTD. Military Management and the Department should be fully committed to implementing the principles of the WTD and meeting their obligations as employers, rather than seeking blanket exemptions from them.

“Not only would these extensive and unnecessary exemptions negate any of the potential health and safety benefits of the WTD for Defence Forces personnel, it would mean a maintenance of a business-as-usual approach, be devastating for morale, work life balance, recruitment, and retention within the Defence Forces.” 

King said RACO would also raise the issue of inadequate staffing across the Defence Forces which the representative body has identified as a key safety risk given personnel are working with firearms. 

He said that the issue of “churn”, meaning the turnover of staff, has worsened with even more experienced staff leaving the Defence Forces this year.  

“In an organisation whose stock in trade is the profession of arms and the management and execution of lethal force, this is a grave risk.

“This rate of churn has also led to a crippling recruitment effort, delivered by our members, but no amount of water has been able to fill the leaky bucket that the organisation has become. So far in 2022, we have suffered a net loss of almost 300 personnel. We are moving in the wrong direction,” he said. 

Other issues which will be covered at the two day event will be the denial of allowances for training officers and for experts in specialist roles; concerns that a post-2013 pension scheme is not fit for purpose; and the exodus of medical staff in the forces.

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