‘Totally unacceptable’ that soldiers are still outside working time rules

‘Totally unacceptable’ that soldiers are still outside working time rules

By Sean O’Riordan

PDForra has said it's “totally unacceptable” that soldiers, sailors and air crews are still not subject to the EU Working Time Directive.

The association won a landmark High Court case last June when its legal team represented a soldier in a case under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.

As a result, Susan O’Donnell, a member of the army, is to get annual leave she lost in 2015 and receive an ex-gratia sum in compensation.

PDForra has 30 more such cases lined up for court action.

It has had some discussions with the Department of Defence on the issue of the application of the law.

However, PDForra general secretary, Gerard Guinan, said the organisation was “tired of the on-going procrastination by the Department of Defence as it relates to the application of the Working Time Directive”.

He told delegates attending their annual conference that they were tired of hearing the Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, tell them the matter is complex and that it is on the legislative agenda.

“Truth is, only after PDForra assisted one of its members with a court action did the department agree to discussions on the matter. Our members deserve better,” Mr Guinan said.

He said only two meetings had been held between PDForra and Department of Defence officials on implementing the Working Time Directive.

“I have seen more of these officials down at the courts than I have at negotiation meetings. My members deserve better than this from the department and the minister. I am aware that a significant number of other claims have been lodged with the courts also. Yet officials, and the minister as late as June of this year, were admonishing Defence Forces members by saying that if they take claims it will delay the process in applying the directive.

“What the department is effectively saying is this: The department can’t stop breaking the law until you stop pointing it out. It a ridiculous proposition. PDForra (first) brought this claim in 2011. How much more time does the department need?”

Mr Guinan said Mr Kehoe “needs to get his house in order”.

“He needs to meet with officials within his department charged with undertaking this work and ask ‘where are we on this? What have you done since we last met?’ The whole thing seems to be all at sea with no one manning the wheel,” Mr Guinan added.

Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said although the Defence Forces retains exemptions in certain operational areas, there is much in the conduct of their daily business which will need to be adjusted in order to comply with the legislation.

“It is my intention that such changes should be to the benefit of all Defence Forces personnel, but that this will also bring organisational challenges,” the country’s most senior military officer said.

He said the Working Time Directive had to be implemented in a manner that optimises military capability and deliver value to the taxpayer.

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