While pay and conditions will dominate PDForra’s annual conference, so too will overburdening stress within the ranks of the Defence Forces caused by manpower shortages.
The conference, which gets under way in Tullow, Co Carlow, today, will hear delegates representing 6,500 enlisted personnel in the Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps discuss 40 motions, one of which calls for an end to “demeaning tasks” such as enlisted personnel having to serve officers their meals.
Naval Service delegates are looking for backing from colleagues on a number of motions. They want PDForra’s executive to hire an independent expert to carry out a comprehensive fatigue survey on all operational sea going units. The proposers of the motion, delegates representing the crew of LÉ Samuel Beckett, want this “carried out as a matter of some urgency.”
They will also demand their national executive enter into negotiations with the Department of Defence to have a professional fatigue management guide created.
PDForra’s national executive are seeking backing to put pressure on the department to ensure the Defence Forces medical corps are properly resourced.
Delegates are expected to unanimously support the motion strongly condemning the “outsourcing of Defence Forces personnel with health issues, and particularly mental health difficulties, to an already strained public system”.
PDForra maintains that personnel who have given service on operations in hazardous environments deserve to have access to proper healthcare facilities and, where required, be assessed by a military medical officer who understands the unique stresses imposed by military service.
Naval Service delegates will point out they currently have to pay for anti-sea sickness patches and allied medications themselves and want this to be paid by the State.
The same delegates have lodged the motion ‘to end the practice of logistical operatives serving officers their meals while at sea and other demeaning tasks’.
A number of motions for discussion also relate to anomalies with allowances and their late payment. Calls will be made that compensation should be paid to people if this continues.
Further implementation of the Working Time Directive will also be discussed, as it will be claimed that breaches of this legislation are still common within the Defence Forces.
Paul Kehoe, the minister with responsibility for defence, and chief of staff, vice-admiral Mark Mellett, will address the conference tomorrow evening.
Mr Kehoe has thus far refused to say he won’t veto PDForra’s attempt to have representation at the next round of national public sector pay talks.
ICTU, the umbrella organisation for trade unions, has accepted in principle the right of PDForra to be affiliated to it and be represented by it at such talks.
Delegates will be keen to hear if Mr Kehoe makes any further reference to this in his speech. They already know that Mr Mellett has serious reservations about the proposed affiliation, maintaining that it could undermine the security of the State.