Sunday 21 July 2019

Court battle looms as Defence Forces members seek back payment of €5m

Legal fight: Junior minister in charge of defence Paul Kehoe. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Legal fight: Junior minister in charge of defence Paul Kehoe. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Legal proceedings have been issued as part of a bid to secure the back payment of up to €5m in allowances for Defence Forces personnel, including members of the elite Army Ranger Wing.

The proceedings were initiated against the Defence Minister this week by PDFORRA, the association representing enlisted personnel.

The move is a significant escalation of a dispute over the implementation of a number of adjudication findings.

Independent adjudicators recommended increases in allowance payments for Army rangers and chefs in 2010 and for account holders, who are responsible for accounts in the Defence Forces, in 2015.

However, the findings were not implemented at the time.

The Department of Defence recently offered to introduce the increased allowances, backdated to October 1 of last year. But the offer has not been accepted by PDFORRA, which wants the payments backdated much further, in line with the adjudicator recommendations.

Sources said it would cost the department between €4m and €5m to fully comply with the recommendations.

The department's offer also includes the abolition of the charging of recruits and apprentices for rations, currently valued at €40 a week.

This too would be backdated to October 1 under the department's proposals.

PDFORRA is challenging the fairness of the offer currently on the table. Lawyers for the association brought the proceedings to the High Court on Monday on a one-side-only basis.

The department has yet to file a defence to the action and did not respond to questions submitted by the Irish Independent.

In answer to a parliamentary question last June, the junior minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe, said there were a number of outstanding adjudications which could not be implemented at the time due to the provisions of financial emergency legislation.

He said these included the 2010 adjudication in relation to the Army Ranger Wing, which recommended the backdating of allowances to June 1, 2006.

It recommended a weekly allowance for rangers of €134.97 be increased to €200 before tax.

An independent adjudicator also recommended a weekly allowance for chefs be increased from €26.90 to €40.42 before tax and that this also be backdated to 2006.

An allowance for account holders was abolished for new entrants in 2012. But in 2015 an independent adjudicator recommended it be reinstated.

The allowance is worth €65.80 a week before tax.

Irish Independent

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