Defence Forces go on attack in pay talks

Defence Forces go on attack in pay talks

The organisation that represents the vast bulk of Defence Forces personnel is “preparing to go to war” in the new round of pay talks, writes Sean O'Riordan and Stephen Rogers.

It wants treatment comparable to the Garda representative associations, which have clawed back pay and allowances.

PDFORRA, which represents 7,000 frontline Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps enlisted personnel, has set out its stall ahead of the new round of negotiations with the Government about improved pay and conditions for its members.

PDFORRA is demanding comparable treatment to all public service employees, and has highlighted the dire pay that some Defence Forces’ members receive. For example, the Naval Service’s younger members are getting nearly half the minimum wage, while working massive hours on migrant rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea.

Its National Executive Committee (NEC) has outlined what it wants from national pay talks to negotiate a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

PDFORRA vice president, Mark Keane, said the NEC meeting decided to push its agenda for members, “because of the additional financial burden borne by its members, following barrack closures and extensive organisational restructuring”.

“At times, this saw hard-pressed members having to sleep in cars to save petrol money,” Mr Keane said.

He added that PDFORRA members had endured more than most under the austerity measures exacted by the Government in recent years.

“We have looked at the improving budgetary situation, the detrimental impact of the Defence Forces reorganisation, and the treatment and priorities of other public service unions and associations, and, looking at all of these factors, PDFORRA had drawn up a bargaining agenda,” Mr Keane said.

The agenda includes a decrease in, or eradication of, pension-related deduction (PRD) and/or pay increases; the restoration of a 10% cut to allowances implemented under the Haddington Road Agreement, and the restoration of outstanding pay awards already recommended under adjudication.

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association, which represents rank-and-file members of the force, has warned that upcoming pay talks must not unfairly target gardaí.

Earlier this week, public service union sources said a three-tier system of pension contributions would have to be brought in, with gardaí, judges, and government ministers — who are all on fast accrual schemes — to pay the highest rates. However, the GRA said garda pensions had been successively devalued in both 1995 and 2013; with gardaí being forced into compulsory retirement as early as age 55, regardless of their financial needs.

“The garda pension is hard-earned, and a deferred payment for work already done. In essence, any accelerated accrual can be regarded as ‘danger money’,” it said.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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