25. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to improve the pay and conditions of Defence Forces members. (Question 20422/18 asked on 10 May 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 32 and 34 together.

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces have traditionally been set by reference to, inter alia, relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. Defence Forces pay is increasing in line with recent public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.

Members of the Defence Forces received increases in pay in 2017 under the Lansdowne Road Agreement. In addition, in a deal agreed with PDFORRA, improved pay scales 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. By the end of the agreement the pay scales to all public servants (including members of the Permanent Defence Force) earning up to €70,000, will be restored to pre-FEMPI levels. The restoration of cuts to allowances will also be considered in the context of the Agreement.

Under this agreement an increase of 1% on annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

The Defence Forces offer competitive starting salaries and excellent career opportunities for any young person thinking about joining. Following the series of pay increases in the last 12 months, a three star private on completion of training starts on €27,257 (inclusive of military service allowance). This represents an increase of 25% on the starting pay scale of this rank in the last 12 months. This starting pay compares very favourably with other entry level pay rates across the public service.

A newly commissioned officer starts on a salary in excess of €35,000 per annum (inclusive of military service allowance), following 15 months training. If officers are already graduates they start on a salary in excess of €40,000 per annum (inclusive of military service allowance). These rates of pay compare favourably with the average graduate salary across all sectors.

The Public Service Pay Commission was established to provide objective advice to Government in relation to Public Service remuneration policy. In 2017, under my direction, the Department of Defence brought issues of recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces to the attention of the Public Sector Pay Commission. As a direct result of that initiative the Commission is beginning an in-depth evidence based examination of those issues.

The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested hard data and detailed information from my Department. Defence management are preparing this material which will be sent to the Commission shortly.

My Department has forwarded an initial tranche of information to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to Air Corps pilots. Further material in relation to the broader Defence sector will be forwarded to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, who are coordinating responses on behalf of the Public Service Pay Commission, as soon as it is available.

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.