Troops vote for right to strike as anger over cuts rages
ANGRY soldiers have overwhelmingly voted in favour of seeking full union status for their representative association, including the right to strike.
The troops -- who are legally forbidden from striking -- say they have no option but to adopt a more militant stance because they have been "sold out" by politicians and senior military management.
And they argue that their reward for being "a model of public-sector reform" is continuing cuts in numbers and the closure of barracks.
At present, they are forbidden from forming a trade union and can only have a representative association.
The landmark decision was taken yesterday in Athlone, Co Westmeath, at the annual conference of Pdforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew.
They adopted a carefully worded motion directing their national executive, through national and European means, to seek the removal of legal impediments to full union status.
Successive governments have strongly opposed any attempt by the association to seek more union rights and this radical move is likely to end up being fought out in the courts here and in Europe.
Association deputy general secretary Simon Devereaux said he proposed the motion with a certain amount of regret but had been left with no choice as the strength of the Defence Forces had been depleted and barracks shut while nobody else seemed to "give a damn".
"The most vulnerable are being preyed upon and this conference has heard of hundreds of people who are now relying on family-income supplements to feed their families," he added.
He accused Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, who addressed the conference on Wednesday, of paying lip service to the military while the Government prepared for further cuts.
"We are on our own," he told the conference. "It's now time to stand up and say that enough is enough."
Kildare regional member Willie Hannon said each time the "austerity sharks" from the Department of Finance came calling, they were thrown a few more barracks for closure and reductions in troop strength.
Mr Hannon also attacked Defence Minister Alan Shatter for failing to attend the conference on Wednesday and said he could have been accommodated on Tuesday or yesterday if he had wanted to address their once-a-year gathering.