Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Questions (24)

Seán Crowe


24. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the measures he is taking to tackle the retention and recruitment crisis in the Naval Service in view of issues (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38461/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I remain committed to maximising recruitment capacity and introducing measures to return to, and maintain, the establishment strength in the Naval Service and the Defence Forces as a whole.

There are a number of recruitment and retention difficulties in the Naval Service which are presenting ongoing challenges and the Government has acknowledged these. My main focus is returning the Naval Service to its full capacity. As you know, two ships LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla were brought in for routine maintenance earlier this year and are now on Operational Pause. A number of their crew have been redeployed within the fleet.

A high level civil military team has been working on addressing the issues facing the Naval Service and has identified a number of specific HR options for consideration. I receive regular feedback on the work of the group. I met with them last week for a detailed brief. It goes without saying that as we deal with these issues, the safety of serving personnel must be the number one priority.

In light of the particular difficulties faced by the Defence Sector, the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission to undertake a comprehensive examination and analysis of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces.

The Commission’s Report, which has been accepted by Government, contains a broad range of recommendations which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force as well as initiatives that can lead to further improvements, these include:

- a 10% increase in Military Service Allowance

- the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances,

- 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 of by the Permanent Defence Force representative associations.

The Report also contains a range of recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service.

The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out the timelines and objectives, indicating the commitment to deliver on the Pay Commission’s recommendations. The plan also provides for an examination of core pay in the PDF and to identify further retention measures within the context of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. Work on implementing the plan is underway and, under my direction, is being prioritised by Civil and Military Management.

The implementation of the PSPC’s recommendations, in tandem with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the most recent being a 1.5% increase on 1st September, are all intended to ameliorate current recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force, including the Naval Service.