Defence Forces members returning to battle Covid-19 will not get pensions

There is anger at a government decision not to pay re-enlisting members of the Defence Forces their pensions during the Covid-19 crisis, while the opposite is apparently the case for returning healthcare workers and prison officers.
Defence Forces members returning to battle Covid-19 will not get pensions
Senator Gerard Craughwell described the decision as “the final kick in the teeth for the Defence Forces”

Senator Gerard Craughwell described the decision as “the final kick in the teeth for the Defence Forces”

There is anger at a government decision not to pay re-enlisting members of the Defence Forces their pensions during the Covid-19 crisis, while the opposite is apparently the case for returning healthcare workers and prison officers.

A senator has said he’s prepared to help mount a legal challenge against the decision amid warnings it may deter much-needed specialists from rejoining the Defence Forces.

Senator Gerard Craughwell described the decision as “the final kick in the teeth for the Defence Forces”.

He said three times during a Seanad debate on the crisis he asked the government to apply the same criteria to the Defence Forces as prison officers and healthcare workers, but was totally ignored.

The Defence Forces are the poorest paid of all of them. This is going to penalise them.

"This is the final kick in the teeth for the Defence Forces. It’s the Taoiseach saying ‘I value every other worker over you’,” Mr Craughwell said.

He said he had already sought legal advice on the issue.

“Pensions are regarded in this State as a property right,” Mr Craughwell said.

The lack of a level playing field was also criticised by the Defence Forces officers’ representative association, RACO.

It’s deputy general secretary, Colonel Derek Priestly, said many highly-skilled specialists had departed the Defence Forces in the last number of years due to inferior remuneration and service conditions.

“Many of these specialists would consider coming back into military service for the period of the Covid-19 crisis even with pension abatement.

"Unfortunately, the fact that other former public sector specialists will not have their pensions stopped, demonstrates again that Defence Forces personnel are not treated on an equal footing relative to other essential personnel,” Col Priestly said.

"The Minister (for Defence) has the authority to change this (pension decision), as the Ministers for Health and Justice have quickly done,” Col Priestly said.

PDForra, which represents enlisted Defence Forces members said it also sought to allow those returning to be paid their pensions during their renewed period of service.

PDForra general secretary Gerard Guinan, said he’d sought the waiver of pension abatement for returning members.

“This had also been sought by public representatives during the Dáil debate on the Emergency Bill,” Mr Guinan said.

The Department of Defence has argued the scheme for re-enlistment is for a minimum period of six months and for up to three years.

It admitted while re-enlistment will assist in the Defence Forces aid to the Covid-19 response, the scheme is designed for medium to long-term requirements and is not comparable to other sectors.

However, it is widely believed the current lockdown could last for many more weeks and even months.

The Department said: “The waiver of the pension abatement which has been sanctioned to other sectors, such as the appointment on a temporary basis of former prison officers or health professionals, is time-bound for the period specifically for the Covid-19 response.”

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