66. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that only 11 privates are left of the 29 that passed out of the 2015 class; and the steps he will take to improve Defences Forces pay and conditions to address the retention crisis. (Question 12524/18 asked on 21 Mar 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Defence Forces have always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.
In order to balance personnel turnover there is ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level. 751 personnel were inducted into the Permanent Defence Force during 2017. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.
Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Irish public service have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. The Government’s economic policy has led to economic recovery and a resumption of economic growth. This has provided the fiscal resources to provide for a sustainable and fair recovery in public service payscales.
Defence Forces pay is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. Members of the Permanent Defence Force have received the pay increases due under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
In addition, following negotiations with PDFORRA on behalf of their members, improved payscales for general service recruits and privates who joined the Permanent Defence Force post 1 January 2013, were backdated to 1 July 2016 and paid in August 2017.
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 with the focus of the agreement once again being on the lower paid. The first instalment of phased pay increases under the Agreement was a 1% increase in annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018. This has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.
Following these revisions in pay, the starting pay for a newly qualified three star private, and their Naval Service equivalent, (inclusive of military service allowance) is €27,257, gross annual earnings, with scope for further income from duty allowances. This is a significant increase on the €21,800 per annum which was the annual amount prior to the implementation of the increases in pay received through recent pay agreements.
The starting pay for a Corporal, including Military Service Allowance, is over €37,000 per annum. The first point on the payscale for a Sergeant, including Military Service Allowance, is €40,000 per annum.
In 2017, under my direction, the Department of Defence raised recruitment and retention issues as part of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission. In a further acknowledgement of these issues the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining these challenges in the Defence Sector in more detail.
The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested detailed information from the Department of Defence. Defence management are preparing their submission which will be sent to the Commission in the coming weeks. I understand that both PDFORRA and RACO have made submissions to the Commission.
The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this exercise in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.