Friday 20 April 2018

Soldiers launch petition to remain in defense forces until they are 50

Greg Harkin

Rank and file soldiers have launched their first ever petition to Government in a bid to remain in the Defence Forces until they are 50.

More than 1,300 members of PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association), the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew of the Permanent Defence Force, have so far signed the petition.

The organisation represents 7,700 members of the Defence Forces.

Under current regulations only officers from the rank of sergeant can continue to serve until they are 50.

Privates and corporals must retire after 21 years of service, which means some leave before their 40th birthday.

More than 120 personnel, recruited in 1994, must leave the forces next year costing the State €2.1 million in immediate gratuity payments and €1.3M in pension costs each year after that.

The petition will be sent to Defence Minister Simon Coveney.

“Some personel serving as Privates and Corporals, who enlisted in 1994 and afterwards are now facing the prospect of dismissal and unemployment, based on a contract which must be revisited and revised,” said PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney.

“All the systems are in place for this to happen, like annual fitness and health checks.

“This the first time ever that ordinary members of the Defence Forces have taken the unprecedented step of signing a petition to the Minister for Defence. That fact that 1300 PDFORRA members have followed this course of action so far shows the depth of concern and anger on this issue.”

Mr Rooney said a change in the rules would save the Government money.

“It would, for example, a soldier who leave with a pension aged 40 could now stay on for another ten years, saving the cost of that pension.

“Not all soldiers want to do this and want to stay on but it should be an option.”

He insisted that many of those who will see their contracts terminated belong to a generation which is struggling to deal with mortgage debt and negative equity - and are not in a position to lose their jobs.

“If our demands are met it will actually save the Government money and deliver continued service from a group who continue to be fit, healthy, trained and qualified to do their jobs,” he said.

“Dismissing these people from the Defence Forces, makes no sense whatsoever – their skills and experience are needed – and it will cost a large sum to recruit and train replacement personnel to a similar standard.”

Around 6pc of soldiers leave every year whilst more than 60pc choose to leave before the 21 years is up.

Under current rules soldiers retiring before serving the full 21 years received a lump sum but no pension.

From 2025, under new regulations, all soldiers will be entitled to a percentage of the full pension based on the number of years served.

Earlier this year the Department of Defence ruled out a change in its position, citing a report which criticised the age profile of soldiers.

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