The Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission to conduct a comprehensive examination and analysis of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention in those sectors and employment streams identified in the defence sector. While there has been much recent reporting in the media and commentary through social media, it would not be appropriate to comment on speculation. I will wait until the report is brought to the Government by the Minister for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, and published before making comment.
Members of the Permanent Defence Force continue to receive the pay increases in accordance with national pay agreements. The restoration of pay scales and the unwinding of the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation is being done in an affordable and sustainable manner. The focus of increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. Increases due to date under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 have been paid to the personnel of the Permanent Defence Force. Further increases in pay are scheduled for later in 2019 and 2020. By the end of the current public service pay agreement, the pay scales of all public servants, including members of the Permanent Defence Force, earning under €70,000 per annum, will be restored to pre-FEMPI levels.
Pay is just one matter that we are addressing. There is a range of other factors that also influence a person's decision to remain in the Defence Forces. These include career progression opportunities, personal development opportunities, work–life balance, job stimulation and work environment. There are significant opportunities for career progression and development within the Defence Forces and there were more than 800 promotions in the PDF in 2018. Each promotion brings extra responsibility but also brings a pay rise. Earlier this year, 24 enlisted personnel completed a potential officers course and were commissioned as officers. Further potential officers courses will be undertaken in 2021 and 2024. There are ongoing opportunities to undertake career development courses and the Defence Forces have made significant inroads in ensuring that major courses acquire external accreditation.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
There is an ongoing programme of HR development within the Defence Forces, of which part is aimed at ensuring that there is an appropriate work-life balance. The Government is committed to ensuring that the provisions of the working time directive are applied to the Defence Forces. The Department of Defence - civil and military personnel - are in discussions with the Permanent Defence Force representative associations regarding the implementation of the directive in the Defence Forces.
There are no quick fixes to the current challenges facing the Defence Forces, which are also being experienced by other military organisations internationally. The Government will consider fully the recommendations arising from the Public Service Pay Commission.