The naval service is haemorrhaging enlisted personnel because of poor pay and a recruitment drive to plug the gaps will not work unless wages are significantly improved, it has been claimed.

Gerry Rooney, general secretary of PDForra, the association that represents frontline soldiers, sailors and aircrew, said the low level of entry pay will “totally undermine” the ambitious recruitment plans announced by Defence Minister Simon Coveney.

A year after initial entry, the pay of a private soldier or seaman is just €21,828, and PDForra claims that, in some cases, sailors are receiving less than the minimum wage while working on Operation Pontus, the humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean.

PDForra said the crews were working around the clock saving migrants.

Its vice-president, Mark Keane, who works in the naval service headquarters in Haulbowline, said that since 2013, it had recruited 380 personnel. However, since then, 238 have left prematurely and had to buy their way out of the service.

Mr Keane said 28 recruits in training had bailed out, while 52 ordinary seaman and 158 full-trained able seamen had also left.

Recruits had to pay €300, ordinary seaman €950, and able ratings €2,850 to quit the service.

The more training given to enlisted men, the higher the pay-out they had to make.

“We know of people who are borrowing from credit unions so they can get out,” said Mr Keane. “The pay is so poor that if they have to commute or don’t live with their parents, it’s impossible to keep going.

“It’s scandalous, what they’re being paid. It’s a not a living wage and where’s the retention policy?”

Mr Rooney said that, in a year where the Defence Forces played a central role in marking the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and in the recognition of their outstanding contribution both at home and overseas, “‘it is plainly wrong to treat these young recruits as second class citizens”.

He also said the exit problem was particularly severe in the Naval Service.

“Large numbers of recent entrants are leaving and this is hardly a surprise given, in some cases, they are receiving less than the minimum wage while operational on missions such as Operation Pontus in the Mediterranean,” said Mr Keane.

“Some people will find this hard to believe, however, the facts speak for themselves.”

Mr Keane, meanwhile, claimed that, in previous years, it normally took two weeks for a person to buy their way out of the services but the process was now taking much longer.

According to Mr Rooney, it was because an exit queuing system had been created within the naval service to ensure that ships have enough crew to remain operational.


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