Low pay blamed for Defence Forces exodus

Sean O’Riordan

A survey of 167 personnel who opted to pay to be discharged early from the Defence Forces shows that the vast majority are leaving for better pay and conditions elsewhere.

The “exit” snapshot carried out by Defence Forces HR comes as military veterans announced they are planning to march on the Dáil to highlight the fact that 84.12% of serving personnel earn below the average public service wage.

These personnel have normally undergone specialist and costly training and must pay back a specified amount to break their contract. The exit survey showed that at least one person was so anxious to get out, they paid €10,000.

In total, 65 of those who paid the discharge purchase indicated that they are going to jobs in some type of civilian employment.

A further 14 didn’t say where they are going, but pointed out they were leaving because of ‘conditions and low pay.’

The gardaí have far better pay and conditions than the majority of enlisted members of the Defence Forces and it was therefore unsurprising that a further 13 soldiers said they were joining them.

Military representative organisations were angered when they were left out of the Government’s “side deals” with gardaí, fire brigades, prison officers, and the like.

These deals included rent allowances. Dublin Fire Brigade was the preferred destination for three military personnel, while another 11 said they had had offers of apprenticeships. A further nine cited family or personal reasons.

There were eight who indicated they are emigrating and 10 are taking up further education courses.

Seven members of the Naval Service cited “conditions at sea” as being their reason for jumping ship.

Long working hours and cramped conditions onboard ships are believed to be some of the reasons for enlisted personnel exiting the force.

However, the Naval Service HR found that the main reason officers are leaving is financial — and they could enjoy better rates of pay in the merchant navy.

One soldier said they could not afford the cost of travel to their base and that was why they were leaving.

Since one battalion was scrapped in 2012, many soldiers have had to travel long distances to new bases.

The exit figures are contained in a document, seen by the Irish Examiner, which was written by senior military officers as part of a submission to the Department of Defence.

The department is compiling a submission for better wages to the Public Service Pay Commission.

Senior officers say the Defence Forces cannot recruit its way out of the present situation and retention has to be the main focus.

Irish Examiner

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