Poor pay sees 2,900 leave Defence Forces early

More than 2,900 members of the Defence Forces took early retirement in the last five years — primarily due to poor pay and conditions — which has led to a significant loss of experience.

Around 1,000 of them had to pay the State a “discharge purchase” of €300 each for the privilege of bailing out.

The bomb squad and Air Corps air traffic controllers are critically short of trained personnel, while the Naval Service has only enough people to run seven of its eight ships.

PDForra, which represents 6,500 enlisted personnel, will highlight the exodus crisis when it opens its three-day annual conference in Co Cavan today.

Delegates will hear that the Defence Forces are at their lowest strength in 50 years. PDForra general secretary, Gerry Guinan, said the pronouncement in the Public Service Pay Commission that the Defence Forces do not have recruiting difficulties, except in particular areas, is “deeply flawed”.

“Currently, the numbers have dropped through the floor with only 8% of those who express an initial interest in joining actually reaching a stage where they could be selected,” he said.

He claimed the latest recruitment campaign is “essentially a failure,” because people joining up don’t have the security of tenure enjoyed by other public servants.

Mr Guinan said this is further compounded by their pay being among the lowest in the public service, adding that they don’t enjoy the protections of basic employment legislation, like the Working Time Directive.

“My members have been sidelined by a Government who profess they will treat us fairly because of the need to exclude us from membership of ICTU, yet they do not give us comparable treatment at pay talks. My members deserve fairness and this association demands it,” Mr Guinan said.

Delegates will also discuss several aspects of a recent damning report on morale within the Defence Forces carried out by University of Limerick academics.

The report, published exclusively by the Irish Examiner last July, concluded poor pay, lack of expertise, exhaustion, and Hotel Rwanda-style barracks has left the Defence Forces almost dysfunctional.

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