‘Limited’ increases could damage Defence Forces morale

Proposed increases in allowances for members of the Defence Forces could make the retention and recruitment crisis worse, not better, it has been warned.

The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) is recommending to Government a 10% increase in the military service allowance (MSA) paid to most personnel, with a minimum increase of about €350 per year.

The journal Industrial Relation News reported that the PSPC is only “considering” restoration of the 10% cuts to other allowances.

RACO, which represents Defence Forces officers, said it is “very disappointed in the conservative nature of its reported recommendations”.

“It’s hard to see how such limited measures will restore confidence of members and prevent further exodus of trained personnel,” said RACO deputy general secretary Lt Col Derek Priestly. “In fact, such a limited award may act as a catalyst for further retirements and discharges, as it would confirm in the minds of personnel that this Government does not value military service and the sacrifices military personnel take on.”

The PSPC has reportedly looked at the possibility of restoring a retention/loyalty bonus for Air Corps pilots of up to €22,000 per annum.

However, while RACO said it would welcome this, it still leaves a yawning gap with the private sector.

An Air Corps pilot with 15 years’ experience would expect to earn around €85,000 a year. A pilot with similar experience working for Ryanair could expect an annual salary of €150,000 — €200,000.

“The restoration of this scheme for pilot officers would be welcomed, but its removal in 2012 has had a significant detrimental impact on pilot numbers which will take a long time to build up again,” said Lt Col Priestly.

Meanwhile, a record 81 rank-and-file personnel bailed out of the Defence Forces in April, 13 of them recruits.

RACO expects 82 officers to leave the military this year, 80% of them taking early retirement.

Noel O’Callaghan, a retired regimental sergeant major who helped organise recent protest marches over pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, said if the leaks coming out of the PSPC were true, “they would kill morale altogether”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on defence, Jack Chambers, said a private with three years’ service or less will benefit from the MSA recommendation to the tune of 96c per day, before tax.

“It would be a nail in the coffin for the pay and retention crisis if the Government endorsed this insult to the men and women who proudly serve our country,” said Mr Chambers.

“Defence Forces personnel are currently the worst-paid public servants and it seems these recommendations will keep the status quo.”

PDForra, representing enlisted personnel, said it is awaiting publication of the PSPC findings. Its general secretary Ger Guinan said if reports are true, “additional measures beyond those suggested will be necessary to stem the current exodus from the Defence Forces”.

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