PDFORRA lodges complaint with European Social Rights Committee on ICTU affiliation issue

The association which represents frontline members of the Defence Forces has made a written complaint to the European Social Rights Committee (ESRC) about the government's failure to allow its members to affiliate with the umbrella union body ICTU.
PDFORRA lodges complaint with European Social Rights Committee on ICTU affiliation issue

General Secretary of PDFORRA Gerard Guinan. Picture: Paul Mealey
General Secretary of PDFORRA Gerard Guinan. Picture: Paul Mealey

The association which represents frontline members of the Defence Forces has made a written complaint to the European Social Rights Committee (ESRC) about the government's failure to allow its members to affiliate with the umbrella union body ICTU.

PDFORRA, which represents around 6,500 enlisted personnel in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, said it is prepared to go all the way to the European Court of Justice if the government persists in holding up the association's right to ICTU affiliation.

The ESRC, which is a European legislative organisation, decided in 2018 that PDFORRA had the right to association with ICTU.

After receiving a petition from PDFORRA, the ESRC made the decision on the grounds that the Irish government was in breach of Article 5 and 6.2 of the European Social Charter, which allows military organisation's the right to affiliate with unions.

In their determination the ESRC added that the government had put forward no good reason which PDFORRA couldn't affiliate with ICTU.

PDFORRA general secretary Gerard Guinan said they had written to the ESRC pointing out they were “still being denied our grant of association statues with ICTU.”

Mr Guinan said they had previously engaged with the Department of Defence and military management on the issue and prior to the last General Election Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had said he didn't see any issue with PDFORRA coming under the ICTU umbrella.

However, the government still hasn't allowed this.

Mr Guinan said his association had made it quite clear to senior military management and Department of Defence officials that his members had given an undertaking that they would never seek strike action.

He said the only reason PDFORRA wanted to come under the ICTU umbrella was because the association would then have some representation at national pay talks.

'Frustrating to us'

Currently PDFORRA doesn't have this representation and it is felt this is one of the main reasons that enlisted members of the Defence Forces are the poorest paid of all public servants.

Poor pay has been highlighted as the main reason why so many experienced personnel are quitting the Defence Forces. There has been a steady increase in the numbers bailing out.

Last year saw a record 800-plus leave. Some were so unhappy in the job that they even paid up to €20,000 to get their discharge papers.

Mr Guinan said the delay in the government formally agreeing to his association's tie-up with ICTU “is frustrating to us".

His association made a formal application to join ICTU in June, 2019.

On September 20 last Patricia King, general secretary of ICTU, said congress's executive council had approved in principle the application.

“We just want to be represented at the (national pay talks) negotiating table, that is all. Our association has made commitments never to strike,” Mr Guinan said.

It has also been pointed out that as it is when people join the Defence Forces they swear an oath never to take strike action.

PDFORRA president Mark Keane said as far back as 1994 when the association was founded it had discussed the idea of seeking affiliation with ICTU.

However, some senior members of military management are not pleased with the idea.

Shortly after it became known that PDFORRA was formally seeking this affiliation, Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, warned the government that permitting this could have implications for State security.

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