22. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding a review of pay and the other issues PDFORRA were seeking to have through the conciliation process regarding the terms and conditions for members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20429/18 asked on 10 May 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): 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 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. By the end of the agreement the payscales for 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. 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 young 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 payscale of this rank in the last 12 months. This starting pay compares very favourably with other entry level pay rates across the public service.

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 (PSPC). As a direct result of that initiative the PSPC is now 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.

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.

There is an ongoing programme of HR development within the Defence Organisation. A number of initiatives have been instigated, including review of the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force; a review of the criteria governing contracts for enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap across the Defence Forces.

These measures address a range of issues and are aimed at ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capabilities to undertake the roles assigned by Government.