State urged to row back on cuts to military

The organisation which represents rank and file members of the Defence Forces is refusing to sign up to the Lansdowne Agreement on public service pay until the Government reverses its decision to cut the wages of new entrants to the military by 10%.

PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks’ Representative Association) general secretary Gerry Rooney said they were being discriminated against as the Government had rowed back on similar cuts to new recruits in the gardaí, fire brigade, and prison officers.

Mr Rooney described it as “completely unacceptable” that the Government was continuing to stick to its guns over the pay reduction within the Defence Forces when they had rowed back on cuts in other organisations.

Mr Rooney said the cuts were introduced in 2011, but under the later Haddington Road Agreement a measure was introduced to allow those affected in other jobs to claw the cut back through incremental points.

The PDFORRA boss said they had not been informed of the clawback mechanism and were being excluded from it.

Mr Rooney said PDFORRA was left in the dark as it was outside the pay talks because it does not have ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) affiliation.

He said his association had been in discussions to get the 10% back with Department of Defence officials, but to date those officials had not agreed to do this and therefore PDFORRA was not in a position as yet to sign up to the new Lansdowne Agreement on pay restoration.

Mr Rooney said that in the new white paper on defence, the minister, Simon Coveney, said: ‘The Government value the service and contribution that members of our Defence Forces make to the State”.

Mr Rooney said: “Well, there’s absolutely no doubt that they’re failing to follow that because they are refusing to remove the cut [we got] in comparison to other public service sectors. Our members are being discriminated against.”

The starting salary for a private in the army is €21,000 a year and it will be new entrants at that ranks who will feel the pinch most.

Mr Rooney said that many of the enlisted members of the Defence Forces who his organisation represent were already poorly paid. Around one in five of his near 7,000 members are so badly paid that they are in receipt of family income supplement.

At PDFORRA’s annual conference last year it was stated that a number of members of the Defence Forces were sleeping in cars overnight as they could not afford petrol to drive home. It was said that a few stayed the whole week in their cars, only returning to their families at the weekend.

Following the claims, the chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Lt General Conor O’Boyle, promised an investigation.

Mr Rooney described the Department of Defence’s decision not to rescind the 10% pay cut for entrants “as a cynical attempt to take advantage of the fact that we have been excluded from ICTU and the national pay-bargaining talks”.

PDFORRA is not recognised as a union by the Government, but defence forces in other countries have been given the right to sit on national pay-bargaining bodies, such as in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. PDFORRA is seeking the same right with the Council of Europe under the European Charter of Social Rights.


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