The Government has been accused of acting ‘Scrooge’ by not paying hard-pressed Naval Service personnel and agreed increased allowance before Christmas.
Several weeks ago the Department of Defence finally reached agreement with PDForra, which represents members of the Defence Forces, to provide crews who have saved more than 15,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea with an increased allowance for overseas duties.
PDForra had argued since the rescue operations got under way in May 2015 that the crews operating in the Mediterranean should be given the higher ‘armed allowance’ as they were carrying Steyr rifles and machine guns.
The Department of Defence refused to provide this allowance and instead insisted that the personnel should only be given the lesser unarmed allowance.
After an adjudicator stepped in, the department finally relented and it was agreed to pay each sailor an additional €15 a day.
The agreement would result in each of the crew getting around €1,300 after tax for their tours of duty.
A department spokeswoman said the agreement to pay the higher allowance was “concluded recently” and that Defence Minister Paul Kehoe hoped the money would be paid shortly.
PDForra deputy president Mark Keane, who was at the negotiations, said they were concluded at 6.45pm on November 11 and that the agreement was sent on to the Department of Public Expenditure for rubberstamping.
“It’s ironic that this Government is basking in the glory of our members saving so many migrant lives but is then prepared to leave the same people wallow in poverty,” said Mr Keane.
He said PDForra had calculated that some young crew members worked so many hours on rescue missions that they were only being paid the equivalent of €4.35 an hour, well below the minimum wage.
“We had hoped that the recent RTÉ documentary on the rescues, The Crossing, would have encouraged the Government to pay out the money before Christmas, but alas they seem to have forgotten to pay ‘the heroes’ who are the working poor,” said Mr Keane.
PDForra put in the claim for an increased allowance after LÉ Eithne started operations in the Mediterranean last year. LÉ Samuel Beckett recently returned from operations there after crew saved 3,090 migrants.
In total the Naval Service has saved 15,623 migrants to date.
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