Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (83)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

83. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps being taken to address the loss of specialist skills in the Defence Forces as identified by the Public Service Pay Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53033/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) report on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force was accepted in full by Government. A comprehensive implementation plan entitled "Strengthening our Defence Forces Phase One " was also published by Government.

The PSPC report recommended a range of measures that would result in immediate and future benefits for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF). The immediate measures included:

- a 10% increase in military service allowance

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

- the restoration of premium rates for certain weekend duties

- the restoration of a service commitment scheme for Air Corps pilots

These measures have now been implemented following their acceptance by the representative associations, RACO and PDFORRA. These measures which will cost €10 million per annum are in addition to increases in pay which members of the Permanent Defence Force are receiving under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The most recent of these was a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from 1st September 2019.

The Government's plan also provides for further measures in the short, medium and longer term. The plan sets out timelines to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. This work is, under my direction, being prioritised by civil and military management. This includes a review of pay structures in the PDF, led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the identification of pay related retention measures. Both of which will be progressed within the framework of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. A range of other pay and non-pay related actions are also being progressed.

Of the 10 projects being led by my Department, civil and military, 9 are up and running and are broadly on track.

These projects include a review of technical pay, which will affect enlisted personnel who are specialists. This review is well advanced with an initial priority focus on technical specialists in the Air Corps, Naval Service and CIS Corps. The initial draft report is currently being considered and a further draft report on the second phase of this review is nearing completion.

Options for incentivising longer service for certain NCO and officer ranks, in particular those with specialist skills undergoing a significant loss of experience are being developed and this will feed into future pay negotiations.

There are also a range of non-pay projects, on which work is underway or due to commence shortly. These include a review of recruitment methods, enhanced workforce planning, enhanced professional military education, bespoke leadership training, development of a mental health and wellbeing strategy, a review of barriers to extended participation in the PDF, the development of further non-pay retention measures and consideration of the provision of additional specialist posts in certain areas.

I am confident that all the measures contained in the plan, coupled with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 will address recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force.

However, it should be noted that as the Government's plan contains short, medium and long term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Commission and other actions which are underway.