A row over pay has overshadowed the largest commissioning of officers in the Defence Forces’ history.
The commissioning ceremony, which took place at the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh, consisted of 68 new army officers and two in the Air Corps. The Defence Forces also trained eight Maltese officers who graduated yesterday.
RACO, the organisation which represents officers across the Defence Forces, said it welcomed the new personnel but was quick to point out that recruitment still isn’t impacting on the numbers of officers leaving because of poor pay and conditions.
Even with the latest appointments, there are 200 fewer officers serving in the Defence Forces than in 2007.
RACO expressed “alarm” after it had been informed officers would not be getting pay restoration agreed in public service pay agreements (Lansdowne Road 1 and 2) in their pay packets this month, despite the fact civilian workers in the Department of Defence would.
The Department of Defence initially said the delay was due to late endorsement by RACO members of the Landsdowne Road 2 agreement.
RACO deputy general secretary Lieutenant Colonel Derek Priestly said his organisation totally rejected this explanation, saying it had clearly identified to the department the association’s acceptance of the Landsdowne Road 2 proposal on December 12, well in advance of any required adjustments for the January 2018 payroll.
“RACO further informed the official side that RACO had posed this question to the Department of Defence two months in advance of the December 2017 deadline in order that they were in a position to facilitate any adjustments that were likely to be required,” he said.
Lieut Col Priestly said that while officers weren’t being paid the increases, they noted with interest that civilian staff in the department were.
“RACO expressed our complete alarm with the approach by management and our dissatisfaction with the lack of any prior communication alerting our association on the matter,” he said.
“The RACO professional staff find the situation where management are not in a position to either pay the due increases quite inconceivable, particularly where the Minister (Paul Kehoe) has stated that levels of low pay are being addressed through the national pay deals.”
PDFORRA, which represents enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces, said it had also made representations about the delayed payments.
Its general secretary, Ger Guinan, said he was concerned about the delay and had been informed it was still being processed and should be paid out in the next couple of weeks.
Mr Kehoe and vice-admiral Mark Mellett, the chief of staff, attended the historic passing out ceremony yesterday.
The 93rd Cadet Class comprised eight officers who had previously served in the Defence Forces as enlisted personnel and 31 university graduates with a range of qualifications including law, history, animal science, multimedia studies, music composition, and English literature.
A further 17 officers were in third-level education prior to joining the Defence Forces.
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