The Government has acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention difficulties and challenges in the Defence Forces. The buoyant labour market and increased competition across sectors to attract personnel are key factors. The level of the departure of personnel can fluctuate, as can the timing of departures. As such, it is very difficult to predict accurately future departure rates. The current departure rates are presenting difficulties for the Defence Forces.
In light of the particular issues faced by the defence sector, the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with undertaking a comprehensive examination of recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force. The commission’s report, which has been accepted by the Government, contains a broad range of recommendations, some of which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force, as well as initiatives that will lead to further improvements. Immediate measures include a 10% increase in military service allowance, the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances and the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps. These measures will be implemented swiftly on confirmation of acceptance by the Permanent Defence Force representative associations. The report also contains a broad range of recommendations aimed at improving workforce planning, recruitment and conditions of service. The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out timelines and objectives, which indicates its commitment to deliver on the recommendations of the pay commission. The plan also provides for an examination of core pay in the Permanent Defence Force and the identification of other retention measures. These will be progressed within the framework of the public service stability agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. Under my direction, this work is being prioritised. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over its lifetime. The increases due to date under the agreement have been paid to members of the Defence Forces, the most recent being a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from 1 September 2019. Further increases in pay are scheduled for 2020. I am satisfied that the range of measures being progressed is an appropriate response to the current difficulties.