'Concern' for Defence Forces as Govt fail to implement plans to bolster military

General Secretary of RACO, Commandant Conor King, said that even some short-term measures promised in the Government's 'High Level Implementation Plan' are "significantly behind schedule"

'Concern' for Defence Forces as Govt fail to implement plans to bolster military

The head of the Defence Forces officers' association says delays in implementing plans promised by the Government to bolster the country's military are causing his association "concern."

General Secretary of RACO, Commandant Conor King, said that even some short-term measures promised in the Government's 'High Level Implementation Plan' are "significantly behind schedule" and has expressed fears that the Department of Defence is holding them up to use them as a bargaining chip in the next round of Public Sector Pay Talks.

Comdt King made his views known in Signal, the RACO magazine which is distributed to its 1,100 members serving in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.

He said one of the main reasons RACO signed up to the recent restoration of some allowances was because they had been promised a definitive timeline for the implementation of certain measures in the 'High Level Implementation Plan.'

Some of the measures which were supposed to be implemented by last October include incentivising long-term service for officers and NCOs, extending retirement age and the implementation of other retention strategies.

"These delays are concerning to the association, as is the clear intent of Departmental colleagues to fold most reviews and finished product into negotiations at the next Public Sector Pay Talks, whenever they may occur," Comdt King said.

He said such delays "may not serve the Defence Forces well" as they continue to struggle on a daily basis to ensure they carry out operations in the face of a manpower crisis.

Comdt King said that that while reduced numbers of Defence Forces are working harder by the day to keep operations going, "regrettably, some cracks are beginning to appear".

He said this was manifested in the tying up of two Naval Service vessels as a result of crew shortages, and the reduction in service of the vital Emergency Aeromedical Service due to a lack of pilots.

"Many of our other bespoke services such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal and certain armed guard services are only being maintained through the goodwill of our people, and in flagrant breach of EU Working Time Directive Health and safety legislation," Comdt King added.

"What is unhealthy is the continued prioritisation of recruitment over retention, which has not served us well. It has been clearly demonstrated that at the current, persistent cycle of dysfunctional turnover we are never getting back to our required strength of 9,500 personnel without immediate, tangible retention initiatives," he said.

He said there are so many simple measures that can be taken with little or no cost to the Exchequer to reinforce the Defence Forces as an employer of choice and an attractive career.

"A first step towards safeguarding the interests of our members would be the conclusion, without further delay, of the saga that is the review of the Defence Forces' Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) Scheme," Comdt King said.

"Department of Defence officials, military leadership and representative associations all expressed satisfaction with the revised scheme. The delay in appointing the promised independent chair is a mystery, and doesn't inspire confidence, over a year after the publication of the C&A review," he added.

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