Tuesday 21 January 2020

Urgent bid to increase Defence Forces pay to stop mass exodus

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

An urgent submission is being lodged to increase the pay of the junior ranks of the Defence Forces, in a bid to halt the massive exodus of fully trained personnel.

Fresh figures show that the impact of a very successful recruitment campaign last year has been almost negated by the numbers leaving to seek better-paid employment elsewhere.

The Defence Forces was successful in recruiting 750 personnel in 2017.

But an unprecedented 700 left the military during the year, which meant a net gain of only 50 recruits.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has pledged that the strength of the Defence Forces will be brought back up to the establishment figure of 9,500 and money has been allocated in the budget to achieve that result.

But the authorities are now facing a retention crisis.

The current strength is estimated at slightly under 9,200. Another 800 recruits are due to be taken in this year - the campaign was announced in the past week - and a further 800 in 2019.

But if the exodus remains at present levels, it will take a minimum of three years to reach the target, even if troops in training and cadets are taken into account.

About 200 of the 700 who left had not completed their initial recruit training.

The Department of Defence and the military management will shortly lodge a joint submission with the new public sector pay commission to seek improved pay rates.

Many of those struggling to make financial ends meet qualify for the family income supplement, because they are so badly paid.

The commission has signalled that health and defence workers are at the top of the queue, and their claims will be determined in the coming months.

Initial information has already been supplied by the military and the department supporting the minister's concerns about particular retention problems in key specialist areas such as bomb disposal and air traffic control.

A major five-year investment plan for the Defence Forces has been sanctioned.

Irish Independent

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