'You can never pay our personnel too much but you can pay them too little' - Defence Forces Chief warns military against union move
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces has warned his troops that any attempt to jeopardise the current relationship between the military and the State will be at their peril.
Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said the Defence Forces were a key component of the security architecture of the State and taking any form of industrial action was incompatible with military service.
And he made it clear that “any diminution of the institutional arrangements that guarantee the unconditional availability of the services of the Defence Forces for Government” had potential implications for State security.
The chief of staff was commenting on the decision of Pdforra, the representative association for soldiers, sailors and air crew, to seek associate membership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Pdforra has stated that it is not seeking the right to strike and will give a guarantee to bolster that position but is seeking associate membership to allow its members to negotiate their own pay.
Vice Admiral Mellett told the biennial conference of Raco, the representative association for officers, in Naas today that he had been consistent in saying that the military must be subservient to the political.
“In a healthy democracy, there can be no other way”, he added.
He said the government needed to be confident of the position of the military at all stages and there could be no ambiguity on the delivery of the security services and that was the way it always had been.
He promised he would continue to make the case that the military were unique in the public sector.
“It is our job to go into danger when others are running away. It is our job to put our lives on the line. It is our job to be prepared to use lethal force. The evidence is there. Our members have died in service, stood up to violent extremists , rescued hostages and save thousands from death, seen hundreds of people die and recovered many bodies.
“We do not have a union. We will never withdraw labour and we are subject to military law. These differentiators must influence the character and the shape of future core pay negotiations”.
The chief of staff said he had long held the view that “you can never pay our personnel too much but you can pay them too little. I will never apologise for advocating for what is appropriate for soldiers, sailors and aircrew”.
He said he had concerns about the numbers leaving the Defence Forces and they needed to focus primarily on the retention issues.
He acknowledged the challenges facing the military at the moment but he was confident that the government’s high level implementation plan would provide a roadmap for the future and included a broad range of measures that would make a difference to the officers and the men and women under their command.
Minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe said the implementation plan included recommendations aimed at improving workforce planning, recruitment and conditions of service. But it also provided for an examination of pay structures and the identification of further incentive measures and he reiterated that it was the government’s objective to reach a strength level of 9,500.
He told the conference he had today agreed to the restoration of fixed period promotions – a measure sought by Raco while the possibility of extending compulsory retirement ages and upper service limits would also be considered.
Mr Kehoe he had also secured agreement from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe for a meeting between his officials and Raco on supplementary pensions.