Members of the Defence Forces working up to 70 hours a week, survey reveals

Members of the Defence Forces working up to 70 hours a week, survey reveals

Shortages of officers in the Defence Forces have resulted in bomb disposal experts and marine engineers having to work 70 and 65 hours a week respectively without any overtime.

A survey carried out by RACO (Representative Association for Commissioned Officers) has highlighted the government's total disregard of implementing the Working Time Directive (WTD) for the military, which should cap their work at 48 hours a week.

Germany, Britain and Sweden have already implemented the WTD for their armed forces and the government has done likewise for the gardaí.

However, the Department of Defence has failed to do so, despite losing a landmark test case earlier this year and facing a further 35 cases which will start to be heard in the High Court next March.

RACO general secretary designate Commandant Conor King said his organisation had carried out an extensive survey of a number of officers over a 17 week period earlier this year.

It showed officers guarding Portlaoise Prison were doing 65 hours a week, those on guard duties at Shannon Airport were doing 53 hours a week and bomb disposal officers up to 70 hours.

A Naval Service officer of the watch was doing 63 hours a week.

He said that bomb disposal NCOs were on average putting in 56 hours a week and bomb disposal unit drivers were doing 60 hours.

Comdt King said it “wasn't unusual” that young lieutenants would put in 60 hours a week.

He added that “nothing was being done to address these issues” and not only was the Department of Defence flouting the WTD, but the hours soldier and sailors were working was also leading to enormous levels of stress and had health and safety implications.

He told a RACO conference yesterday that its members were “ a victim of their own success” because they were always saying yes to every order, no matter how understaffed and under pressure they were.

Outgoing RACO general secretary Lieutenant Colonel Earnan Naughton said since 2012 there had been a continuous exodus of highly-trained officers for better pay and conditions in the private sector. He said that some units were short 40% - 50% of the officers they needed.

We lose 75 to 85 officers every year of which up to 70% are leaving before retirement. This is simply unsustainable. In several cases it takes up to five years to train specialist officers,” Lieut Col Naughton said.

He said of the excessive hours of some of his members: “In any other sector it would be considered as exploitation.”

He also pointed out that if they were serving with the gardaí or the German or Swedish military they would be getting overtime payments. RACO wants the government to apply the WTD, but some officers told the conference they were so short of manpower they couldn't see how it could be implemented.

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