PDForra conference: Defence Forces leaving in droves as they can't afford to live on wages

Young members of the Defence Forces are disillusioned and leaving the Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps in droves because they cannot afford to live on their wages.

Some young sailors involved in migrant rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea earn less than the minimum wage per hour, while soldiers based at home are having their €360 per week take-home pay eaten into by significantly increased travelling costs due to relocation following the closure of several barracks.

PDForra, the organisation which represents enlisted Defence Forces members, claims that poor pay and conditions have resulted in low morale and fading comradeship among the rank-and-file.

Speaking on the first day of its annual conference, PDForra general secretary, Gerry Rooney, said the Government has to speed up pay restoration to members: “Our peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, Lebanon and Mali, our Air Corps members delivering air ambulance services and our Naval Service personnel deployed in the Mediterranean to protect refugees certainly deserve increased pay.”

He pointed out PDForra’s “alarm” at massive turnover levels being experienced in the Defence Forces over the past three years: “Of course the Naval Service situation is exacerbated by the fact that sea-going personnel are paid less that the national minimum wage.”

He said a “climate survey” carried out by the Department of Defence shows how unhappy young sailors are.

“This is a disgraceful situation and you should be intervening to resolve it and ensure these young people receive a fair wage,” he told minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe.

Mr Rooney said the climate survey also identifies wider dissatisfaction with current pay levels.

“This comes as no surprise to PDForra given the reliance among a significant proportion of our membership on family income supplement,” he said. He told Mr Kehoe he must bring forward agreed pay increases under the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) “as a way of addressing the serious injustices in pay, which cannot be denied”.

PDForra president Mark Scally said “morale is at its lowest for some time” and “the comradeship and brotherhood that the Defence Forces have thrived on over the last two or three generations is there, but regrettably fading”.

To Mr Kehoe, he said: “Surely you, minister, and the military authorities are aware of this, or maybe you don’t want to know.”

Mr Scally said: “At the heart of the report it states ‘there is a perception of a lack of justice in the Defence Forces’.”

Mr Kehoe said he is committed to ensuring that Defence Forces members are “fully recompensed fairly and transparently in the same manner as all other associations who have signed up to the LRA”.

He urged PDForra to sign up to the LRA: “I cannot stress enough the need to sign up to this agreement so as to avail of its protections and the programmed restoration of pay cuts. The LRA provides the vehicle whereby the terms and conditions of your members can be restored in a sustainable and ongoing manner.”

Claims sailors in rescue missions earn less than minimum wage

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