IT IS TIME TO RECOGNISE OUR DEFENCE FORCES

04 April 2017

Speaking on Private Members Motion on the Defence Forces

I would like to formally move the Labour Party addendum to the motion.

This is a very welcome motion tonight with a lot of good things in it.

However we wished to add some important points we feel are absent from the original Motion.

Labour has been regularly seeking an upgrading of the Defence Forces ability to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment.

This would in turn have an impact on their ability to earn an income without having to recourse to Family Income Supplement.

We also have concerns regarding the health and safety of our Defence Forces personnel particularly in relation to the use of Lariam.

We have raised these concerns in our addendum and we hope that these will be acceptable to the movers of the motion and to all members of the House.

As I said previously, the Fianna Fail motion contains a lot of good measures which we in the Labour Party support.

That is why we have chosen an addendum rather than an amendment.

PDFORRA has long held the belief that for truly effective and equitable negotiations to be undertaken on behalf of the membership, affiliation to ICTU is imperative.

This would allow our Defence Forces to have access to the Workplace Relations Commission for dispute resolution and to be involved in national pay bargaining like other workers.

This view has been held by the membership of PDFORRA since 1995 when a vote on the matter was passed unanimously by delegates at their Conference.

Speaking at that Conference in 1995 Peter Cassells, then ICTU General Secretary, informed the Delegates that while he recognised the Defence Forces had a special role to play, members should still have a say on pay, taxation, social welfare and health and that this should be conducted through ICTU.

Subsequent attempts by PDFORRA to petition various Ministers seeking to grant affiliation status have been rejected.  

Two years ago, with a situation not too dissimilar to the Defence Forces, the Association of Garda Sargents and Inspectors had a successful petition to the European Social Rights Committee.

PDFORRA reviewed the determination and considered the parallels between the circumstances of  PDFORRA and the AGSI and also petitioned the ESR Committee.

PDFORRA believe that the protections enshrined within the European Social Charter should apply to its members and we in the Labour Party support that call also.

National pay agreements have been the norm in this country for many years.

 In the absence of an ability to highlight, at central negotiations, the matters effecting members of PDFORRA, its effectiveness at negotiation is severely hampered.

While there is a conciliation and arbitration scheme in existence for members of the permanent defence forces, for a number of reasons this scheme is limited in scope and power.

It is also identical to the scheme enjoyed by An Garda Siochana which was the subject of their complaint to the European Social Rights Committee.

We have pushed before and we will continue to push for PDFORRA to have recourse to the WRC.

If we look at the Bus Eireann dispute, now into its 12th day, the recourse of the WRC has always been there and talks will now resume through that channel.

Unfortunately this option would not be open to the Defence Forces.

This is wrong and this something which needs to be rectified.

With our addendum we are asking for this to be rectified and I would hope it receives majority support in the House. 

The cost of living crisis exists throughout the country and it is not just limited to one sector.

The fact that over 20% of our Defence Forces are in receipt of Family Income Supplement highlights a shameful aspect across our entire economy.

The fact that that there is an unwillingness or inability of organisations both in the private and in this case the public sector, to adequately pay their workforces to meet the basic living needs of housing, light, heat, food and raising children, is indeed a shame.

I believe that if the Defence Forces were permitted to fight their corner in pay negotiations their members would not need to avail of Family Income Supplement in such high numbers.

One in every five is an incredible number.

Minister I believe a plan should be put in place to ensure that pay is commensurate with the needs of ordinary members of the defence forces and in doing so to ensure that the need for members to rely on Family Income Supplement becomes a distant memory.

Still on the subject of pay, there was an agreement on the 11th November last year, through an independent adjudicator, that crews serving in Operation Pontus in the Mediterranean should be paid an armed allowance of €15 per day.

These payments are still owed to these personnel and they are long overdue.

The Minister needs to rectify this with immediate effect?

Finally, Ceann Comhairle, we recognise the ongoing concerns of personnel and their families due to the continued use of Lariam and the lack of proper support and aftercare services for members of the forces.

There are very real fears over the impact of any mental health side-effects from Larium on their career if these are noted on their medical records.

Minister, there should be an independent outside medical review of the continued use of Lariam.

I have said this to you previously during oral questions.

We believe it is vital, needed and long overdue.

Every day the members of our Defence forces bravely defend vulnerable communities worldwide from exploitation, violence and death.

They keep the peace in the most dangerous parts of the planet.

They rescue hundreds of refugees from the waters of the Mediterranean, where many have perished fleeing violence and persecution.

What we seek in our addendum and what the original motion seeks to achieve, are all relatively modest when weighed against the contribution that our defence forces make to our own security and to the security in theatres of conflict throughout the world.

We ask for your support for the addendum.”

 

Text of Labour Party Addendum to the Motion:

Acknowledges that:

– the Government intends to introduce legislation to provide access for the Garda Associations to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court;

– the agreement on 11th November 2016 through an independent adjudicator that crews serving in Operation Pontus in the Mediterranean should be paid the armed allowance of €15 per day;

– That over 20% of enlisted personnel in our Defence Forces are in receipt of Family Income Supplement;

– The ongoing concerns of personnel and their families due to the continued use of Larium, and the lack of proper support and after care services for members, and fears over the impact of any mental health side-effects from Larium on their career if noted on their medical records;

– The impact of the restructuring of the Defence Forces Brigades from three to two, and the additional travel and other costs this has placed on soldiers;

Further calls for:

– legislation to provide staff representative associations in our Defence Forces, including PDForra with access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court;

– a review of the terms and conditions of staff in our Defence Forces separate to the ongoing analysis of the Public Service Pay Commission, with a particular focus on enlisted personnel, to ensure that members can pursue a rewarding and sustainable career that acknowledges the costs of serving, and gives due regard to their service, and the dangers and risks they face on our behalf;

– that all payments due to those who served in Operation Pontus should be paid immediately;

– that there should be an independent outside medical review of the continued use of Lariam.

            Brendan Ryan, Joan Burton, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Jan O’Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Sean Sherlock.

 

 

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