Reserves in the Defence Forces have to travel to training and exercises at their own expense and get paid, on average, 19% less than their full-time counterparts for doing the same work. The pay reduction has been made by the Department of Defence, despite a ministerial order that enshrines equality of pay.
As a result, reservists may be owed several million euro, which they are demanding back from the Government. It comes as the Public Service Pay Commission recommendations on Permanent Defence Forces earnings has been postponed for the fourth time, and will not now be made public until tomorrow.
These are some of the reasons being blamed for a serious fall-off in the numbers of people prepared to give up their spare time to help protect the State. They were to the fore at the recent annual delegate conference of RDFRA (Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association), held at The Curragh. The association supply back-up to the army and naval service, but not the air corps.
Most recent figures on strength show it is seriously undermanned, just like the Permanent Defence Forces. The recognised establishment figure for the army reserves is 3,869, but it currently stands at 1,668 ‘effective’ personnel.
The figures for the naval service reserve is 200, but in reality is just 133. RDFRA general secretary Neil Richardson said reduced pay and the lack of travelling expenses are serious barriers to recruitment.
“We’re conservatively looking at a number of million euro owed to our members and those who have since retired. We are demanding this for our current members and then we’ll discuss the issue of the retired.”
Mr Richardson said that, prior to 2013, reservists were given end of year “lump sums”, which were to compensate them for money they paid up front for fuel to travel to bases for training.
The Department of Defence has since axed this payment. “This was quite a massive blow to us,” said Mr Richardson. “For instance, you might have a guy living in West Mayo who has to go to training at his unit headquarters in Athlone. He’s having to pay for the diesel himself.
“We also have individuals in the Naval Service who have a considerable journey to make to training bases in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, and don’t get paid travelling expenses either.
“Reservists are at a financial loss by doing their job. It’s common to hear them say: ‘It costs me money to be a reserve.’ The British armed forces ensure all their reserves are paid properly and are not out of pocket for travel and other expenses.”
Mr Richardson told delegates certain items such as helmets and wetsuits were pooled and this was not acceptable because of hygiene implications. “You should have equipment for use for just yourself. Being shared by multiple people is not best practice,” he said.
RDFA president Eugene Gargan said the Government continued “to sit idly by and allow the Defence Forces sink ever deeper into crisis”.