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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Pay hikes in the Defence Forces to stem exodus of personnel

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

Tom Brady and Anne-Marie Walsh

A package of €10m for the Defence Forces will be approved by the Government today in a bid to stem the exodus from the military organisation.

The money has been put together following talks involving the Departments of the Taoiseach, Public Expenditure and Defence, as well as military top management.

It is aimed at ending the personnel crisis that has led to large numbers leaving the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps amid unrest over pay and conditions and creating vacancies that cannot be filled in key areas.

If the package is accepted by the two military staff associations, Pdforra and Raco, privates who have completed training will receive more than €28,000 a year.

Newly commissioned officers will start on €41,000 and middle-ranking commandants €67,000.

Those figures include a 10pc increase in the military service allowance, which is granted to all personnel.

The package also includes an improved tax-free payment for overseas service, which works out at between €15,300 and €20,400 for peacekeepers on a six-month tour of duty.

The annual increase in the military service allowance for most personnel will be between €600 and €700.

The package has also been designed to deal with specific groups of military, who had been singled out by the representative associations. These include the Army Ranger Wing and bomb disposal unit, as well as financial measures to retain Air Corps pilots.

Increases for Naval Service crews, as a special allowance for patrol duties at sea, work out at about €5 a day, which is unlikely to quell the unease at the take-home pay levels.

The package is based mainly on a report from the Public Service Pay Commission.

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe referred the retention crisis to the commission in 2017 and received the report this year.

Since then, officials from the two Government departments have been in discussions about other add-ons to the package, including in the non-pay area, to improve the offer to be put to the military associations.

After the package has been approved at this evening's Cabinet meeting, delayed because of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's involvement in negotiations in selecting new EU leaders in Brussels, details of the offer will be published and briefings given to the associations, either tonight or tomorrow.

Last month it emerged that more than a third of military personnel have left the Defence Forces in the past five years, creating the biggest retention crisis ever faced by the organisation.

According to Raco, the Defence Forces will not reach their authorised strength, on current trends, until 2035. The present strength of the organisation is around 8,900.

Despite successful recruitment campaigns, the military has been unable to make up the shortfall.

Pdforra said that the history of pay in the Defence Forces was a mirror of boom-bust cycles within the economy generally, with significant periods of pay lags usually followed by significant awards.

It said that what was happening was "complete madness" with history repeating itself every couple of decades, resulting in huge turmoil.

Over the past seven years, Pdforra has frequently raised issues such as members being forced to sleep in cars and others qualifying for family income supplements.

Irish Independent

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