The association representing the country's military officers says the Defence Forces cannot wait more than a year for the completion of yet another report on its future and steps must be taken in the meantime to appoint an independent pay commission.
RACO (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers) also maintains that the Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, should be provided with an operational budget which he can oversee himself, similar to the Garda Commissioner, instead of the purse strings remaining in the hands of Department of Defence officials.
RACO has cautiously welcomed a number of measures announced for Defence in the new Programme for Government, which includes the setting up of a 'Commission on the future of Defence.'
However, this is not likely to be set up for several months and will take a year to complete its report.
RACO general secretary Commandant Conor King said the Defence Forces cannot wait that long as its strength will continue to fall, primarily due to poor pay and allowances which are fuelling the exodus of highly-trained personnel.
“RACO has campaigned for a permanent independent pay review body, reflecting the unique nature of military service and welcomes its inclusion in the programme for government, but it must deliver real retention initiatives,” Comdt King said.
However, he said it is of “concern” to RACO that the independent pay review body will not be set up until after the Commission on the Future of Defence report is completed.
“There should be a premium attached to a refusal to take industrial action, and relativities with other public sector bodies must be broken if we are to become an 'employer of choice'. Defence Forces personnel will need much speedier interventions in pay and allowances to reverse the slide,” he said.
Comdt King said the scope of the Commission on the Future of Defence should be wide-ranging and must include a review of the Department of Defence as well.
Many officers are double and even treble jobbing to fill personnel gaps and some are working in excess of 70-hour weeks, which is clearly in breach of the Working Time Directive.(WTD).
Comdt King said that negotiations with the Department of Defence on the WTD had stalled for nearly a year “and there is a need to reinvigorate the process.” He said RACO welcomes the new government's promise to introduce legislation to allow members of the Reserve Defence Forces to be deployed domestically and potentially overseas.
Comdt King said RACO also welcomes measures to support veterans and to develop a new Institute for Peace Support and Leadership Training in the Curragh and the commitment to improved healthcare for enlisted personnel, “which is badly needed and has the potential to improve retention.”