The Department of Defence has agreed to pay financial compensation and provide extra days leave to soldiers after it was alleged they worked excessive hours which breached the EU Working Time Directive (WTD).
While the department has agreed to compensation for some troops, more claims for breaches of the WTD are being prepared by PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association), the organisation which represents approximately 6,500 enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces.
The department finally signed off the agreement yesterday. PDFORRA had been pursuing some claims under WTD legislation as far back as 2011. Compensation is to be given to soldiers who were on guard duty at Portlaoise prison who worked excessive hours and didn't get proper rest periods.
A number of members of the bomb disposal squad are also to be given compensation for working excessive hours. In addition, members of the 106th and 108th Infantry Battalions who served on the United Nations mission in Lebanon are to get compensation for having leave days reduced below the minimum stipulated.
Soldiers who served with these battalions will get an increase in annual leave up to a maximum of seven days which is to be taken within the next three years. Some of them can also avail of monetary compensation of up to €500 per person.
Soldiers who served on guard duty in Portlaoise during the past five years will be able to get compensation of up to €500 each and an additional three days annual leave. The same terms will apply to those who served in the bomb disposal squad.
In June last year PDFORRA took a WTD test case to the High Court and won a landmark decision which saw Susan O’Donnell, a member of the army, get annual leave she lost in 2015 and an ex-gratia sum in compensation.
PDFORRA general secretary Gerard Guinan said that the agreement reached between its legal team, which included the association's solicitor and three barristers, and the legal teams representing the Department of Defence, was an even bigger landmark.
"This represents the very first time that a compensation scheme has been agreed between the department and PDFORRA. We have been striving for years to get these claims awarded," Mr Guinan said.
Mr Guinan said PDFORRA was aware of other cohorts of personnel where work practices were not in conformity with the WTD. Currently, PDFORRA is in the process of compiling claims for these personnel. These claims will initially be submitted through the Department of Defence's Conciliation and Arbitration scheme.
Mr Guinan said the claims would be made by PDFORRA for its members who serve in the Ist Infantry Battalion, based at Mellows Barracks, Galway, and members of the Naval Service. The claim will be made for compensation because they were not given proper rest periods as defined by the WTD.
A special training day on the application of the WTD will be organised for the association's district representatives in the New Year.