41. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the actions taken by his Department on foot of the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights to provide for the collective bargaining rights of Defence Forces personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20219/18 asked on 10 May 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The European Committee of Social Rights has considered a complaint submitted by EUROMIL, a European umbrella body for military associations, on behalf of PDFORRA, concerning the lack of certain rights for military representative associations in Ireland.
It should be noted that the basis for the complaint pre-dates a number of Government initiatives. In relation to collective bargaining, the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) Representative Associations participated in the negotiations last year on the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which were held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. The PDF Representative Associations were afforded parity of esteem with public sector trade unions and representative associations during the negotiations.
Both PDFORRA and RACO accepted the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus on the lower paid.
The Government welcomes the conclusion of the European Committee of Social Rights that the prohibition on the right to strike for members of the Defence Forces is not a violation of the European Social Charter.
It is critically important that the Defence Forces can undertake operations, when required. The taking of any form of industrial action is irreconcilable with military service. In this regard, the right to affiliate with ICTU poses complex questions for the Defence Forces from a legal, operational and management perspective. A key concern is that such affiliation would carry obligations that would be incompatible with military operations and the roles assigned to the Defence Forces.
I have appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to conduct a review of the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. While the focus of the review will be primarily on the operation of the scheme, I have directed that the review considers the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights and this is incorporated into the terms of reference for the review.
I understand that Mr. Barry will be consulting with senior officials in ICTU in the course of the review. Mr. Barry is due to prepare a report for me by the end of August. I do not intend to pre-empt any conclusions arising from the review at this time.