Government must increase pay for Defence Forces

11 July 2019

Labour Spokesperson for Defence, Brendan Ryan TD, has described the level of staff turnover in the Defence Forces as ‘unsustainable’ and has criticised the government for not facing up the primary cause of the staffing crisis; core rates of pay. These criticisms were made during the Dáil debate on the Public Service Pay Commission review of Defence Forces Pay. 

Deputy Ryan said:

“Ongoing recruitment and retention issues pose an existential crisis to Oglaigh na h’Eireann and puts in jeopardy their ability to protect the state of Ireland, its territorial waters and airspace. 

“The Public Service Pay Commission had its hands were tied behind its back because the terms of reference precluded it from looking at the issue of Defence Forces core pay. The Minister is aware that there is scope for wriggle room available in these agreements. The Government found it for the nurses – rightly so – and found it for the Garda when it was put under pressure.

“The Government knows the Defence Forces cannot go on strike, therefore it’s members are to be treated differently and they are not to have the increase in their actual pay to which everyone in this House and everybody in the trade union movement would agree they are entitled.

“Less than 20 years ago, the Strength of the PDF stood at 10,559. In 2018, this had dropped to under 9,000, with a turnover rate of 8.1%, with 731 personnel exiting the force. In 2019, another 256 had left, with 86 dischargers alone in April. This level of turnover is simply unsustainable if we are to maintain the integrity of our security forces.

“The reality is, if the Government fails to provide a decent wage, a living wage, then this trend will only continue.

“It is hard to believe that nearly 85% of Irish military personnel earn less than the average industrial wage. The core of the Defence Forces is some 7,661 personnel who make-up the three most populated ranks – Private, 3 Star/ Seaman, First Class. In 2008, the scale for these three groups started at €26,082, rising to €30,429.

“At the end of the PSSA in 2020, this will have increased to a minimum point of €26,852 (3% increase) and a maximum point of €32,118 (5.5% increase). Yet under the recommendations proposed by the PSPC, the most populated ranks, – who make up some 92% of enlisted personnel – only stand to earn €0.96 gross per day under the PSPC recommendations.

“Not only is it insufficient, but it is also a completely short-sighted and inefficient strategy if the Government is serious about resolving the recruitment and retention challenges.

“It is simply not good enough for the Minister to hide behind the review of the pay commission when it was his very Government that preset the terms and the outcome by not allowing the commission to look at the issue of core pay.

“The core pay in the Defence Forces is a massive outlier in public sector pay. It needs to be rectified and this Commission’s recommendations do not go far enough.”


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