A pay review is to be undertaken in the next three months aimed at addressing the exodus of highly trained engineers and technicians in the Defence Forces, especially in the Naval Service.
The navy is desperately short of marine engineers, electricians and radio technicians after years of low pay prompted many highly-qualified personnel to jump ship for better paid jobs in the private sector.
Speaking at the Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline, Co Cork earlier today, Minister with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe said he had ordered a review of the pay for around 2,500 Defence Forces personnel, known in the military as Grade 2 – 6.
Recognising the unique problems being encountered by the navy, he said people on those grades in the service would be prioritised in the review which will be undertaken by military management in conjunction with officials from the Department of Defence and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Mr Kehoe said the review will start immediately and also said that research would be carried out on retention issues facing the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.
He did his best to sell the €10m package of increases to allowances for the Defence Forces at a passing-out parade for new officers at the naval base.
He also urged the Defence Forces' representative associations, RACO and PDForra, to read all 96-pages of the Public Service Pay Commission's (PSPC) recommendations and to meet with him shortly to discuss them in more detail.
Defences Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, said he would be "monitoring closely" reaction to the PSPC recommendation for improved allowances for his soldiers, sailors and aircrews.
He also pointed out that 85% of respondents to the PSPC said renumeration was the key concern for members of the Defence Forces and the current strength, including those under training, was approximately 8,700. This is 800 below the minimum 'establishment' strength.
Meanwhile, Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe ruled out any prospect of similar pay increases being offered to other public service workers.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, Mr Donohoe said the current pay agreement meant the PSPC recommendations “cannot become a reason for why similar changes are expected by every public servant, regardless of their circumstances”.
He rejected the assessment made by RACO General Secretary Commandant Conor King that the pay rises equated to a €0.96 gross per day increase for the lowest ranked privates and €1.30 gross for captains as “inaccurate”.
He said Comdt King didn’t take account of other changes such as those to the security duty allowance and the patrol duty allowance, which Mr Donohoe said could be worth up to €800 for Defence Force members.