The association that represents enlisted men in the Defence Forces is bringing a legal challenge against the Department of Defence and has brought in a “big gun” to help it.
PDForra, which represents 8,000 enlisted soldiers, sailors and aircrew, is preparing to take legal action against the department for its failure to address outstanding adjudications, which include providing recruits and apprentices with free rations.
Recruits are the lowest paid of the Defence Forces, and the Forces, in turn, are the lowest paid of the country’s public servants and this is causing “deep dissatisfaction” among PDForra members.
As it prepares to take court action on that and three other outstanding adjudications for its members, the association has sought legal advice from senior counsel John Rogers.
These include adjudications, made in 2010, to pay increased allowances to members of the elite Army Ranger Wing (ARW) and to petty officer chefs in Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps.
An additional adjudication finding, made in 2012, relating to Defence Force accountants, also has not been paid by the department.
PDForra general secretary, Gerard Guinan, stated that his members are “extremely frustrated” at the position being adopted by the department, as some of the claims should be implemented immediately and others backdated: “It is very unfair to hold personnel, who have given such loyal service, hostages to fortune.”
He said the failure to pay the adjudication decisions has caused “deep dissatisfaction” among PDForra members: “In an environment where the Defence Forces are suffering from a crisis in retention and recruitment, this association would have believed that those measures which can, and should be adopted immediately, would.”
He pointed out that recruits have extremely low salary and from this they are expected to pay a relatively significant sum towards rations and accommodation. In contrast, trainee officers, known as cadets, are provided with free rations.
“If the department was truly interested in encouraging personnel to join, and remain in service, they would ensure that they enjoy proper remuneration,” Mr Guinan added.
He said that arising from the Department of Defence’s failure to engage with his association on these issues, PDForra has sought legal advice from John Rogers.
Mr Guinan stated that his association is having to engage in ever-increasing amounts of litigation with the Department of Defence, which it has not wanted to do: “The process of having to go to court, and engage in legal correspondence, is costly and time-consuming for everyone.
“However, our members deserve to be treated with respect and if the only place we can attain justice is through the courts, that’s where we will go.”
PDForra won a landmark legal action last June, when it took a test case against the Department of Defence for breaching the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. As a result, Susan O’Donnell, a member of the army, got annual leave she lost in 2015 and received an ex-gratia sum in compensation.
PDForra has more than 30 similar cases lined up to go to the High Court and it is expected that the first of these will be heard next March.