I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 16 together.
Similar to other sectors in the public service, the pay of Permanent Defence Force personnel was reduced as one of the measures to assist in stabilising national finances during the financial crisis, as Deputy Aylward will be very much aware. Improvements in the economy have provided an opportunity for the unwinding of the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation, which imposed pay cuts across the public service during the financial crisis. Pay is being restored to members of the Defence Forces and other public servants in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.
The increases due to date under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 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 in 2020. By the end of the current public service pay agreement, the pay scales of all public servants earning less than €70,000 per annum will be restored to pre-FEMPI levels. The restoration of the 5% reduction in allowances under FEMPI is also scheduled in the agreement.
Pay rates for newly qualified members of the Defence Forces are competitive compared to other areas in the public service and private sector. For instance, a newly qualified three star private can expect to earn €28,205 gross per annum. A newly qualified school leaver-entry officer can expect to earn €36,154 gross per annum, inclusive of the military service allowance. After initial training, a graduate-entry officer can expect to earn €41,193 gross per annum, inclusive of the military service allowance, after initial training. These are just starting pay rates. There are additional opportunities to increase pay through annual increments and promotional opportunities. Basic pay and the military service allowance are just elements of the overall remuneration package available for members of the PDF. A range of duties attract additional allowances while certain positions in the Defence Forces also attract technical pay. The overseas peace support allowance is paid tax free to members of the Permanent Defence Force participating in overseas military operations on the direction of the Government.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Defence Forces are experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties particularly in some areas of specialism. This is reflective of the economic growth experienced under the current Government and the associated buoyant labour market. We are not unique in this regard. It is being experienced internationally by armed forces. At my direction, the Department of Defence brought the particular difficulties in recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission. Arising from the first report of the commission in 2017 and the subsequent public service stability agreement, the Government tasked the commission with undertaking a comprehensive examination and analysis of recruitment and retention in the Defence Force.
There are regular meetings between the Taoiseach, and other Ministers and I have discussed a range of Defence matters with the Taoiseach and Government colleagues. The report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces was accepted by Government on 4 July 2019. The report contains a broad range of recommendations that will provide immediate benefits to members of the PDF, as well as initiatives that can lead to further improvements. These include a 10% increase in the 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 their acceptance by the PDF representative associations.
The Government has prepared a detailed plan for the implementation of the recommendations in the report of the commission. The measures are aimed at improving workforce planning, recruitment, retention and conditions of service. The plan also provides for an examination of core pay in the PDF within the context of the public service stability agreement and future public sector pay negotiations and the completion of a review of technical pay arrangements, concerning grades 2 to 6. The plan sets out timelines with the objectives to deliver on the commission’s recommendations. This work is, under my direction, being prioritised by civil and military management.