45. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who have left in each of the years 2000 to 2017 and to date 2018; the average length of the service; if an analysis has taken place to address the problems of retention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20413/18 asked on 10 May 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 33, 37 and 44 to 46, inclusive, together.

The Defence Forces have a higher level of turnover than other areas of the public service and this is a feature of military organisations internationally.

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Permanent Defence Force have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. 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. 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 1% increase in annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

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. The Department of Defence brought the issue of certain specialists, including Air Corps pilots, to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission in 2017. This matter is referenced in paragraph 6.29 of the Commission’s report of May 2017. 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. My Department has forwarded an initial tranche of information to the Deaprtment of Public Expenditure and Reform. Further data and information in relation to the Defence sector will be forwarded in the coming weeks as the collation of data and information is completed. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this work in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.

There is also an ongoing programme of HR development within the Defence Organisation, of which part is aimed at ensuring that there is an appropriate work-life balance. The Chief of Staff is actively addressing certain matters in the Defence Forces to this end. I have also initiated a number of initiatives ranging from a review of the C&A scheme, a review of the criteria governing contracts for enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap analysis across the Defence Forces. I am also bringing forward measures to allow former members of the Defence Forces with specialist skills, to re-enter the Defence Forces.

There are significant recruitment opportunities currently available in the Defence Forces, at both enlisted and officer level, for eligible individuals who wishes to have a rewarding and positive career in service to the State.

A General Service Recruitment campaign and the 2018 Officer Cadetships competition both closed last month and the applications are being progressed. A competition for Air Corps Apprentices is currently open. The Naval Service is currently recruiting Direct Entry Officers for Bridge Watch-keeping, Marine Engineering and Electrical Engineering roles. The Defence Forces are also accepting applications from qualified doctors for careers in the Medical Corps.

The measures I have set out address a range of factors and are aimed at ensuring that the Defence Forces remains a career of choice, and to ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capabilities to undertake the roles assigned by Government.

In the context of discussions surrounding the proposals for Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (Haddington Road Agreement), the Defence sector was required to deliver savings of €10m per annum by 2015. This was to be achieved through the reduction in certain military allowances and the elimination of some other military allowances. As part of the agreement negotiated between civil and military management and the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, the Saturday and Sunday rates for Security Duty and related allowances were flat-rated, i.e. the standard Monday to Friday rate was to be payable for such duties carried out on a Saturday or a Sunday. Both PDFORRA and RACO have submitted claims for the restoration of the rates through the Conciliation & Arbitration (C&A) Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. As discussions under the C&A Scheme are confidential to the parties involved, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.

The following table, provided by the Military Authorities, shows the average length of years of service, by rank.

Year ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16 ‘17
Private 3* 13 12 10 11 11 12 11 20 21 20 22 16 16 14 12 15
Corporal 21 21 22 19 22 23 23 29 26 26 27 27 24 22 24 22
Sergeant 25 27 28 28 28 26 27 31 31 30 32 28 29 27 30 30
CQMS 31 28 33 32 34 33 35 35 34 34 33 35 35 35 33 35
CS 31 32 32 34 31 32 33 36 31 33 35 37 38 34 35 34
BQMS 39 31 35 36 33 34 34 36 35 34 33 29 33 34 29 41
Sgt Major 40 39 35 38 35 37 41 40 35 35 38 0 40 43 41 41
Lieutenant 2 - 2 4 3 6 6 5 - 6 6 5 6 5 8 6
Captain 17 10 14 12 12 13 13 11 10 15 16 14 13 12 13 12
Commandant 26 26 26 24 26 30 28 34 33 29 31 27 27 24 23 21
Lt. Colonel 37 36 36 37 37 36 38 36 37 37 37 37 36 36 35 43
Colonel 41 41 42 39 41 40 41 39 40 40 40 40 39 40 40 37
Generals 41 42 44 43 43 44 41 42 40 42 43 42 42 43 42 43

The military authorities have provided the following table showing the numbers that exited each year.

Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Exited 732 579 544 528 589 649 543 509
Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Exited 499 641 763 445 469 556 655 707

According to the military authorities, as of 30th April 2018, 147 members of the Defence Forces exited on a voluntary basis. It is not possible to estimate such non-mandatory retirements for the remainder of 2018 with any accuracy.

As of the 31st March, the whole time equivalent strength of the Defence Forces was 8,993 personnel. As of 4th May, the Defence Forces have inducted 159 personnel consisting of 157 General Service Army and Naval Service recruits and two (2) Direct Entry Medical Officers. The projected inductions by the end of 2018, the military authorities advise me, is 800 personnel.

With the support of the Chief of Staff I am committed to ensuring that there is on-going recruitment to the Defence Forces and that the Permanent Defence Force can continue to operate effectively across all roles assigned by Government, both at home and overseas.