Defence Forces personnel say Department 'doesn't want to engage' in talks

Defence Forces personnel say Department 'doesn't want to engage' in talks

PDFORRA, which represents enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces, is preparing to take another 35 cases of breaches in the WTD (Working Time Directive) to the High Court.

Its general secretary, Gerard Guinan, told the conference that his association has no choice because despite already winning a landmark case, the Department of Defence doesn't want to engage.

Mr Guinan said Pdforra entered into talks with department officials on the WTD in 2011 and provided them with detailed case law on the EU legislation.

“They had no intention of coming to an agreement. It's been a real struggle. We have 35 cases pending. Three are listed for hearing in the High Court in March,” he said.

RACO general secretary, Lieutenant Colonel Earnan Naughton, said his association tried to engage with department officials twice this year and made no progress.

“Either through the courts or through Conciliation and Arbitration we will meet them. Hopefully, this conference might lever more of a response,” he told delegates.

One of the reasons why the Department of Defence might not want to implement the WTD is that it could cost it a significant amount of money.

The German government adopted it for its military after its armed forces representative group got KPMG to undertake a survey.

It showed that military personnel carry out a huge amount of non-paid overtime duties, which if paid would have cost the government €375m per year.

The German armed forces representative association vice chairman, Capt Andreas Steinmetz, told the conference that the unpaid overtime was the equivalent of employing 7,000 more personnel.

He said a lot of non-essential duties are now outsourced to private security companies and, as a result of this, military personnel are freed-up to be better trained and are less stressed.

Defence Forces personnel say Department 'doesn't want to engage' in talks

He added that it has also resulted in a reduction in personnel leaving for jobs in the private sector.

Sweden has also implemented the WTD and one of its submarine officers, Mikael Kenttala, outlined how all personnel have their working days planned out well in advance, unlike Ireland.

He said if personnel exceed the WTD on naval patrols they get extra pay and time off in-lieu and, again unlike Ireland, their chief of staff is in control of the budget and not civil servants.

Garda Representative Association general secretary, Pat Ennis, said his organisation, which successfully negotiated the implementation of the WTD in the force, is on hand to help RACO and Pdforra in any way it can.

Liz Hughes, of Hughes Murphy Solicitors, said “the writing is on the wall” as since 2003 it isn't acceptable to have a blanket WTD exclusion on military personnel, unless there are exceptional events, such as national emergencies caused by severe weather or serious threats to State security.

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