Defence Forces fear new exemptions will keep members working excessive hours

Defence Forces fear new exemptions will keep members working excessive hours

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney (centre) with (left to right) Bob Flynn from Offaly, Shannon Reid from Kildare, Marion O’Donohoe from Laois and Niall Twomey from Cork at the presentation of Civil Defence Covid-19 medals at Croke Park in Dublin to honour volunteers for their efforts during the pandemic. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Concerns have been raised that 13 exemptions sought by military management along with the introduction of the Working Time Directive for the Defence Forces will still leave soldiers, sailors and aircrews working excessive hours.

The RACO conference heard a member of the navy describe how in one year he worked 320 days onboard a ship, while a member of the army said it wasn’t unusual for him and colleagues to work 70 hours a week.

More and more pressure is being put on personnel to plug gaps because the Defence Forces has so many vacancies, but there is no overtime for working longer hours.

“For too long management has treated members’ time as an infinite resource, without consideration of work life balance, and the fact that our organisation has never even recorded working time, in contravention of EU law, has denied our members access to benefits such as overtime which are available to other public sector employees,” RACO general secretary Lt Col Conor King said.

He said RACO had consistently argued that a failure to provide adequate rest and compensatory time off to military personnel is significantly impacting their home-life and the ability of many to sustain a career in the Defence Forces.

Lt Col King said in stark contrast to members of An Garda Síochána, the Prison Service and all other public sector organisations, RACO had “learned with disbelief that our military and political leadership are now intent on legislating to exempt most Defence Forces operations and training activities.” 

RACO president Commandant Martin Ryan said watching some soldiers in the 7th Infantry Battalion in the past summer performing eight or nine compulsory 24-hour duties a month “absolutely galled me and left me questioning how personnel are truly valued in the Defence Forces.” 

He said the extensive Working Time Directive exemptions now being proposed by senior military management negate any safety benefits which should have accrued for Defence Forces personnel and “represents a ringing endorsement for a business-as-usual approach which clearly has not worked.” 

“This approach is devastating for morale, disregards work life balance, impacts potential recruitment as never being an employer of choice, and overwhelmingly reduces the chances of enhanced retention within the Defence Forces,” Comdt Ryan said.

Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sean Clancy said it’s imperative that we ensure the maintenance of the operational effectiveness of the Force and that we ultimately retain the capacity to meet those tasks assigned by Government.

However, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney maintained that exemptions to the Working Time Directive hadn't been finalised and was therefore still a work in progress.

"We're trying to get the balance right. We will have to have exemptions to ensure the Defence Forces are functioning the way we need them to," Mr Coveney said.

More in this section

Text header

From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

Execution Time: 0.257 s