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Sherlock slams treatment of Defence Forces pay and conditions



Speaking in a Topical Issues debate he raised, Cork East TD Seán Sherlock slammed the Government’s treatment to date of the pay and conditions of members if the Defence Forces.

“I refer to the plight of serving members of the Defence Forces who find themselves in deplorable conditions relating to their pay and entitlements,” said Deputy Sherlock. What steps are being taken to alleviate the hardship being endured by many such members? The families and spouses of Defence Forces personnel recently marched to these Houses in a very dignified way and handed letters to the Government to seek to ensure that their dignity is maintained and that we recognise the service they give to this country.”

“What steps are being taken to ensure that there is the required core of military personnel across the Air Corps, Naval Service and Army? As the Minister of State will be aware, members of the Naval Service reserve were recently asked to fill full-time places within the Naval Service. It is unedifying for the country to have a shortage of competent military personnel. We must ensure that there is a core crew of competent personnel across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.

Responding to the issue, Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Paul Kehoe stated:

“Defence Forces pay is continuing to increase in line with public sector pay agreements. The increases are weighted in favour of those on lower pay. Members of the Defence Forces received increases in pay in 2017 under the Lansdowne Road Agreement. In a separate deal agreed with the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, the pay of general service recruits and privates who joined the Permanent Defence Forces after 1 January 2013 was increased further. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for further increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement. The increases under the agreement due from 1 January 2018 and 1 October 2018 have been applied to the annualised salaries of Permanent Defence Force personnel. Further increases under the agreement are scheduled for payment in 2019 and 2020. By the end of the current public service pay agreement the pay of all public servants, including members of the Defence Forces, earning under €70,000 per annum will be restored to the levels in place prior to the FEMPI legislation. Defence Forces personnel who joined after January 2011 will also benefit from the recently announced amendments to the pay scales for new entrant public servants. The restoration of cuts to allowances will also be considered in the context of the public service pay agreement.”

The average annual salary inclusive of military service allowance for a 3 star private, which is the starting rank for enlisted personnel, is currently €35,000 gross, while the average salary for an able seaman, which is the equivalent rank in the Naval Service, is €37,000 gross. Members of the Defence Forces also benefit from additional pay rates and allowances. These include technical pay which ranges from €420 to €7,000 extra each year depending on the job of the individual member. Approximately 47% of enlisted personnel are currently in receipt of technical pay. In the past two years, we have increased the opportunities for personnel to serve overseas. The average tax-free overseas payment received by general service personnel in 2017 was a little more than €8,000 and the average paid to officers was almost €10,300.

Deputy Sean Sherlock refuted these claims by the Minister.

“He presents a very rosy picture. The Minister of State stands up here and says on the record of the House that pay for a 3 star private, which is the starting rank for enlisted personnel, is €35,000 gross while pay for the average able seaman, which is the equivalent rank in the Naval Service, is €37,000 gross. I do not know if that is the experience based on an average working week of 39 hours because if we examine those figures more closely, we will find that most people who are within the services are working far in excess of 39 hours per week. When we annualise the hours and the average hours per week worked for the salaries that are being articulated here, the picture is far more stark than the one presented to us by the Minister of State. I have an example involving a soldier with 20 years service who got an affordable house with a mortgage ten years ago. He has a monthly mortgage payment of €700 and two daughters and receives €500 per week on average from the Defence Forces. He is applying for family income supplement. No soldier or member of the Naval Service or Air Corps should have to apply for family income supplement. That is the point I am making. There is a gap somewhere between what the Minister of State is telling us and the reality for soldiers on the ground. I do not want to be too rhetorical about this. I want to give the Minister of State a chance to deal with this issue and I think we have given the Government a fair wind to deal with it. I know of soldiers who are taking home €300 per week. The military allowance of €120 is being used to make up core pay when it should be additional pay. There are all sorts of issues there. Every Member of the House could come before us with individual examples of soldiers in their constituencies or members of the Defence Forces but I still believe there is a lot of work to be done by Government to make soldiering and working in the Naval Service or Air Corps something to be proud of. The rates of attrition are due to the fact that basic rates of pay are too poor.

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