Certainty needed on Defence Forces pay and conditions if extra investment is to have an impact

Senator Mark Wall
12 July 2022

With the Cabinet due to approve a long term increase in Defence Forces spending, Labour Party spokesperson on Defence, Senator Mark Wall, said that delivery of better pay and conditions will be essential if ambitious recruitment targets are to be met.

Senator Wall said:

“To implement key recommendations from the report of the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces required a long term commitment to increase funding so today’s Cabinet decision is welcome, but to meet the level two ambition then better pay, allowances and conditions will be needed to make it a reality. The Minister should now publish a detailed timeline of proposed funding increases, with a strong governance and implementation framework.

“At least 3,000 extra personnel will be needed to achieve this ambition, in effect increasing the Defence Forces by a third. Massively improved recruitment, and in particular retention of skilled personnel is the only way to ensure this goal is met.

“Investment in capital infrastructure such as primary radar, and other equipment is absolutely necessary but if we don’t have the sailors, soldiers and pilots in place then the extra spending won’t deliver the capabilities we need.

“There have been some recent welcome developments such as the affiliation of representative bodies to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, but as we saw most recently with Dublin airport, we still have some way to go to get rid of “free labour”, and the enforcement of the working time directive with appropriate compensation for those who work longer hours. The Defence Forces must also recognise the reality of the modern workplace, and recognise the needs of women, carers, and young men who want flexible and remote working opportunities.

“The thorny issue of core salaries was not addressed by the Commission, and I expect some progress will be made on that in public sector pay talks. However I understand some recommendations on allowances will be made today. Ongoing examination of specialist pay rates and allowances and quick implementation will also be needed.

“The housing crisis has had a huge impact on retention and we need a stronger focus on accommodation for those who enlist and serve. I’ve repeatedly said retention is the most important factor in securing our Defence Forces into the future. Delivering decent housing for serving personnel at our barracks and bases would go a long way to making the Defence Forces a more attractive career path.

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