Saturday 21 September 2019

Pdforra association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew apply to join Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Pdforra represents soldiers, sailors and air crew
Stock photo: Frank McGrath
Pdforra represents soldiers, sailors and air crew Stock photo: Frank McGrath
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

An association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew has applied to join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The unprecedented move would allow the enlisted military personnel to represent themselves at the next round of national pay talks.

Pdforra, has already lodged its application with the congress for associate membership and has made it clear it is not looking for the right to strike.

The military is the only group of public sector workers without a seat at the pay negotiation table and lost out significantly at the last talks as others successfully secured side deals for their members.

Minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe has given a relatively positive response and promised to actively explore the idea.

But he would need the support of Cabinet colleagues before the move could receive government backing.

If this is achieved along with the completion of compensatory deals for groups such as the Army Ranger Wing and military cooks, it could help pave the way for a breakthrough in negotiations between Pdforra and the Department of Defence on the €10m pay package, offered by the government last July.

Leadership figures in Pdforra have been touring its regions and districts around the country to gauge the response of members to the offer and are currently in south Lebanon to talk to its personnel serving with the Unifil peace mission.

The package was put forward in a bid to stem the exodus of personnel from the Defence Forces but met with a mixed response from Pdforra and Raco, which represents officers.

In the meantime, the strength of the Defence Forces has fallen in the past few weeks to an all-time low of around 8,700 as the organisation struggles to retain members.

Pdforra is seeking further clarification on some of the proposals din the government’s offer and it is not yet determined whether the package will be put to a national ballot for acceptance.

The offer is expected to top the agenda for its annual conference, which will be held in Tullow, Carlow, at the start of next month when it will be debated by delegates as well as being considered by its national executive committee.

If the government agrees in principle to associate membership of ICTU for Pdforra, it is expected to seek a written guarantee from the military group that it would not take strike action.

Pdforra’s position is that this would not be a stumbling block as a strike is not permitted under the terms of the 1990 Defence (Amendment) Act and it has consistently stated that it is not looking for that right.

A written guarantee will be provided if its application is successful.

Military management has opposed membership of ICTU in the past but Pdforra has pointed to its rights under the European social charter and the findings in its favour by the European social rights committee.

According to Pdforra, more than 3,000 personnel have exited the Defence Forces over the past four to five years with current rates averaging 50 to 60 a month.

RACO, which has called for an independent pay review body to be set up without delay, estimated that since February last year, 130 officers and 1,100 enlisted personnel, or nearly 13pc of the military, had left the Defence Forces.

Its members will review the package at its annual conference in Naas later this month.

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