Tuesday 22 October 2019

€10m military pay deal may not stem exodus of soldiers

Paul Kehoe. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Paul Kehoe. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Tom Brady and Cormac McQuinn

The Government is facing an uphill struggle to halt the exodus of military personnel despite the launch of a take-home pay package that will cost €10.1m annually.

The package contains a range of increases in allowances across all ranks of the Defence Forces as well as initiatives to retain personnel in key sectors.

Announcing the package yesterday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Defence Minister Paul Kehoe were both upbeat that what was on offer would turn the tide.

Mr Kehoe said an offer of €28,000 for a school leaver was attractive.

Cadets with a Leaving Certificate would, on being commissioned, get €35,000 a year with the opportunity of further education, while those holding a third-level degree would be paid more than €41,000.

He described the Defence Forces as a great organisation to join with a range of options available that could not be offered elsewhere.

But the findings of a survey carried out on behalf of the Public Service Pay Commission, whose recommendations formed the basis of the package, painted a grim picture.

The survey results indicated that slightly over three-in-five respondents in the specialist category intended to leave the military in two years or fewer.

One of the strongest themes from the research was the widespread dissatisfaction with pay and allowances.

Mr Donohoe said the commission was prevented from doing a general pay review as this was covered by the Public Service Stability Agreement.

The package includes a 10pc increase in the military service allowance, which will push up the pay of most by between €602 and €675 a year.

Sunday premium rates are being restored, while officers on a six-month tour of duty with a peacekeeping mission will earn a tax-free payment.

Allowances for the Army Ranger Wing and the bomb disposal unit, as well as security and patrol duty allowances for sailors, are being restored to pre-recession levels.

Mr Kehoe also announced that, separate to the pay commission recommendations, it had been decided to increase the Army Ranger Wing allowance by €50, to €200 a week, while cooks with relevant qualifications would see their allowance increasing from €26.90 to €40.42 a week.

Recruits and apprentices will no longer be charged for rations and accommodation, resulting in a saving of €43.63 a week. Those increases would come into effect immediately but would not be retrospective.

Pdforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew, said it needed time to consult with members but it remained concerned about the approach to remuneration.

General secretary Ger Guinan said: "The defence organisation will regrettably take a long time to recover from these losses."

Irish Independent

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