The association which represents 1,100 of the country's military officers has written to two senior government ministers complaining that for the second time in two years its members have been left without access to third-party adjudication.
The RACO (Representative Association for Commissioned Officers) has written to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath because the post of head of the Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) Scheme is vacant yet again. Both ministers are 'signatories' of the Defence Forces C&A scheme.
RACO general secretary Commandant Conor King said that in May 2020, the Department of Defence allowed the tenure of the adjudicator for the C&A scheme to lapse, “thereby rendering the scheme effectively defunct”.
In his letter to both ministers, he pointed out that on that occasion, it took more than six months for a new adjudicator, Daniel Murphy, to be appointed.
At that stage the Department of Defence agreed to the appointment of Mr Murphy for a period of at least 12 months starting from January of this year.
Comdt King pointed out that on July 1 this year, RACO was informed by Mr Murphy that his contract had once again lapsed on June 30, after only six months, and with no replacement.
“This is entirely at odds with the commitments made by all parties to the Public Service Agreements,” Comdt King said.
In his letter to the ministers, Comdt King stated that the recent conduct of (national) pay negotiations, where RACO was denied the opportunity to negotiate Defence sector specific measures (unlike other groups), “had severely damaged the confidence of our members in our industrial relations processes, and the removal of the adjudication facility further damages that confidence and trust”.
Comdt King said there are a number of ongoing claims which cannot now be progressed through C&A “given the practice of the official side to push issues into third party adjudication”.
He said RACO has sought the immediate reinstatement of Mr Murphy for the remainder of the period agreed between RACO and the official side, “and that his tenure is not allowed to expire until a replacement is sourced, agreed and installed, in keeping with best practice and fair procedures”.
The association has become increasingly frustrated with the approach of the Department of Defence on a number of issues.
RACO is taking 10 test cases of Working Time Directive breaches to the High Court having failed to secure engagement on the issue from the Department of Defence or senior military management.