Fixed period promotion in the Permanent Defence Force was a promotion which took place after a fixed period of time. It was part of the terms and conditions of specialist service officers such as engineers and doctors. The whole notion of fixed period promotions as an expectation or a right continuing for specialist personnel did not sit comfortably with, and was not in keeping with the principles, of merit-based promotion, which was one of the terms of the public service agreement 2010-2014. While experience matters in terms of specialist posts, time served is not necessarily the best indicator of suitability for promotion. Fixed period promotion did not recognise individual contribution or the extent and nature of the work that an individual had done.
In September 2015, the Department of Defence reached agreement with the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, which provided that the policy of fixed period promotion would no longer apply for future officers inducted as special service officers. However, they will be eligible to compete in merit-based promotion competitions. Negotiations are ongoing with PDFORRA regarding the retention of fixed period promotion for new entrant instrumentalists in the Defence Forces School of Music.
The service commitment scheme for pilot officers of the Air Corps was withdrawn in 2013. The recommendations of the working group on pilot retention, which reported in 2015, are being progressed by a joint civil military working group. The working group's report contained a number of recommendations ranging from increasing recruitment levels to examining the current terms and conditions of pilots. Work on the implementation of the group's recommendations is currently ongoing by both civil and military staff of the defence organisation.
A range of recruitment methods are being used, including direct entry competitions for specialist positions, and the scope to further expand direct entry is being considered. I have also directed civil and military colleagues to develop terms and conditions to allow former members of the Defence Forces with sought-after skills to return to service.
It should be noted that the Department of Defence, in conjunction with the Defence Forces, raised recruitment and retention issues as part of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission. This is specifically referenced by the commission in paragraph 6.13 of the report.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Section 3 of the public service stability agreement 2018-2020 provides that the Public Service Pay Commission be requested to complete a comprehensive examination of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention in those sectors and employment streams identified in the report of the Public Sector Pay Commission. In this context, the Department of Defence will be making a submission to the commission when the commission commences this phase of its work.
Yesterday, my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, updated Government on the next phase of work by the Commission. Following this update, the Government endorsed the terms of reference for the next phase of the Commission’s work. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, will shortly be meeting with the Commission to discuss this next exercise.