Monday 27 March 2017

Fury as soldiers on standby denied extra pay

Fiona Ellis

Soldiers put on standby to help snow-bound householders over Christmas are furious after their demands for extra pay were turned down -- even though they were not called into action.

Thousands of soldiers countrywide came to the rescue of people in distress during the bad weather. The Defence Forces also facilitated medical transfers. All those soldiers were paid for undertaking the duties.

But solders who have been spending up to 12 hours a day 'on call' in barracks claim they should also have been paid for extra duties.

They have requested a discretionary 'decency' payment for the time spent on call -- a request that the Department of Defence is understood to have turned down.

Pdforra, the association representing non-commissioned members of the Permanent Defence Forces, is demanding that soldiers should be paid for time spent away from their families, and says it plans to prioritise the payments issue early next year.

Pdforra general secretary Gerry Rooney blamed new arrangements for the failure to pay the decency payment.

"They are on duty. Even if they are not deployed, they are spending long and antisocial hours away from their homes," he said, "There is anger about it; people have an expectation to spend some time with their families."

The association says it will be taking the matter to an adjudicator with the Defence Forces conciliation and arbitration scheme and hopes to have a hearing in early 2011.

If the case is won, then soldiers will be entitled to back pay for the hours spent on call in barracks.

A spokesman for the Department for Defence said: "All discussions under the defence conciliation and arbitration scheme are confidential to the parties involved, and it would not be appropriate to comment on the merits or any other aspect of any claim under discussion."

However, the discussions did not stop the Defence Forces coming to the rescue of many people over Christmas.

On Christmas day, the Army transported healthcare professionals to medical facilities in Dublin, Cork, the midlands and the west, helping the health services to remain operational.

Patients were also transported to Dublin from Cork and the midlands for treatment, and a meals-on-wheels service was provided to the elderly and housebound at a number of locations. The severe-weather assistance will continue over the Christmas period.

Irish Independent

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