Poor wages and staffing crisis to dominate PDForra conference

Poor wages and staffing crisis to dominate PDForra conference

The Naval Base, Haulbowline. During the three-day PDForra conference, 18 of the 42 motions down for debate have been put forward for discussion by naval service delegates. Picture: Denis Minihane

Inadequate remuneration and the continuing staffing crisis across much of the Defence Forces are set to dominate a three-day conference which gets underway on Tuesday, held by the association which represents the country's frontline military.

PDForra, which has around 6,500 members in the army, naval service, and air corps, will also seek the scrapping of unfit-for-purpose contracts for some of its members, an increase in the spending on their meagre daily food allowance, which is far less than prisoners get, and the implementation of the EU Working Time Directive.

If the latter cannot be successfully achieved, PDForra’s national executive wants amendments made to allow members to get overtime payments for the extra workload they are enduring, which is getting worse by the day for those who remain in service and are having to work even harder to fill vacancies.

Despite a major ongoing recruitment campaign, concerns will be raised that not enough young blood is joining the Defence Forces as it continues to haemorrhage experienced older personnel who are bailing out in significant numbers for better pay and conditions in the private sector.

Sexual harassment review

In addition, it is likely delegates will discuss the fallout from an independent review carried out into sexual and mental harassment of women within the Defence Forces over the years by superiors.

It is understood that senior figures in both PDForra and Raco, the counterpart representative association for officers, have received a briefing from military management of the findings.

One PDForra source said the findings are “damning and need to be addressed as a matter of extreme urgency”. 

Around 120 delegates representing the army, naval service, and air corps will attend the annual conference which gets underway on Tuesday at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, and continues until Thursday.

There are 42 motions down for debate, 18 of which have been put forward for discussion by delegates representing the naval service. The difficulties in the naval service have been more pronounced due to significant staff shortages. It is now so stretched that rumours abound that it may be forced to tie up another ship.

Crew shortages

Two were mothballed, LÉ Eithne and offshore patrol boat LÉ Ciara, in 2019 due to crew shortages. They have since been decommissioned, along with a third, LÉ Orla.

The representative association also wants to put an end to personnel having to get up in the small hours of the morning to be bussed long distances to ceremonial duties. 

Instead, PDForra says personnel should be transported to these ceremonies the night before and provided with overnight accommodation at the nearest military installation.

Demands will also come from delegates that provision is made by the Department of Defence to initiate a scheme whereby new entrants on low wages can expect to be provided with affordable housing. Many of the military installations where they are employed are situated in areas where purchasing houses on the open market is beyond their income. A motion maintains this will promote stable employment and the personnel given these homes should be provided with a mechanism to buy them out.

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