Denial of basic employment rights 'fostering discontent in Defence Forces'

Denial of basic employment rights 'fostering discontent in Defence Forces'

Many officers and enlisted personnel are working more hours than they should to fill gaps because the Defence Forces are currently short around 1,000 personnel. File picture

The association representing the country’s military officers is urging the Minister for Defence and his officials to get around the table and implement the European Working Time Directive (WTD) across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps without delay.

The WTD was implemented by the Gardaí 10 years ago, but despite repeated promises, nothing to date has been done to address this in the Defence Forces.

Speaking in the Dáil recently, Defence Minister Simon Coveney reiterated the Government’s full commitment to ensuring the WTD will apply to the Defence Forces, but as far back as 2010 the government was told it was in breach of employee rights legislation.

RACO, which represents 1,100 of the country’s military officers, said initial talks on the WTD implementation were held in 2019 between the military representative associations, including its sister organisation PDForra (for enlisted personnel), the Department of Defence and Defence Forces management.

RACO general secretary, Commandant Conor King, pointed out that after two months the Department of Defence withdrew from the talks.

Comdt King said, at present, the Defence Forces does not even account for the hours worked by its personnel. Some junior offices are regularly working up to 70 hours a week.

He said not keeping records on hours worked denies Defence Forces members basic employment rights and entitlements like compensatory rest or overtime, leaving them earning well below the pay of their garda counterparts and at a serious disadvantage.

Comdt King said thousands of public servants will receive restoration of pre-Haddington Road Agreement hours under Building Momentum.

“Because the Defence Forces didn’t count its hours, and still doesn’t, Defence Forces members endured other cuts (like Specialised Instructors Allowance) that still have not been restored,” he said, adding: 

The denial of these basic employment rights fosters discontent, damages recruitment, and pushes Defence Forces members out the door.

Fears have been raised that senior Defence Forces management may be seeking ways to get some derogations on the implementation of the WTD.

“Our members have serious concerns that rather than using the WTD to improve planning, give members safer working conditions, and better work-life balance, our Defence Forces management are trying to enshrine exemptions in law to avoid protecting their people,” Comdt King said.

He said RACO is calling on Mr Coveney “to immediately engage with the two Defence Forces representative associations, honour the Commission on the Defence Forces recommendations on ending the free labour aspect of Defence Forces service, and not deny personnel basic employment rights because of a failure to invest in the retention of personnel.”

Many officers and enlisted personnel are working more hours than they should to fill gaps because the Defence Forces are currently short around 1,000 personnel.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.