The Defence Forces climate survey was commissioned on foot of a recommendation contained in the third report of the independent monitoring group which was established to oversee the implementation of recommendations relating to harassment, bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment within the Defence Forces. Follow-up work to the initial findings in the survey was conducted by University of Limerick researchers via use of focus groups. The resulting report, which was published in July 2017, further explored the issues raised in the original survey. The comments quoted therein cover a wide range of issues relating to human resources management. These include pay and conditions, vacancies, recruitment and retention, promotion systems, performance management, leadership, culture, morale, stress and work-life balance. The report predated the significant improvements in pay that have taken place in the intervening period.
Members of the Permanent Defence Force have received the pay increases due under the Lansdowne Road agreement. In addition, in 2017, following negotiations with PDFORRA, improved pay scales for general service recruits and privates who joined the Permanent Defence Force post 1 January 2013 were implemented. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 to 2020 provides for further increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement. The first increase, due from 1 January 2018, has been paid to Permanent Defence Force personnel and a second increase is due to be applied from 1 October 2018. Further increases in pay are scheduled for 2019 and 2020. New entrants to the Defence Forces will also benefit from the measures that were recently announced relating to amendments to the pay scales for new entrant public servants recruited since January 2011. By the end of the current public service pay agreement, the pay of all public servants, including members of the Defence Forces, earning under €70,000 per annum will be restored to pre-financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, levels. The restoration of the 5% reduction to allowances cut under FEMPI is also scheduled in the agreement.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
As well as pay, other issues highlighted in the survey are being addressed. Many of these are provided for in the White Paper on Defence and are being progressed accordingly. A number of initiatives, including a review of the criteria governing contracts of enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap analysis across the Defence Forces, are being given an increased priority. I also commissioned a review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme and I have received the report from Gerard Barry, who undertook the review. I am considering the findings and recommendations.
There is ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces and a range of initiatives are being developed, including commissioning from the ranks, criteria for the re-entry of former Permanent Defence Force personnel with specific skills, and consideration of increased use of direct entry for specialist posts. The Public Service Pay Commission is also examining recruitment and retention issues as part of its work.
With regard to other issues relating to human resource management highlighted in the climate survey, there are extensive support systems in place for members of the Defence Forces. The personnel support service is available to provide information, assistance and counselling on a range of matters, including interpersonal problems and stress. I am satisfied that the measures outlined are serving to address the issues raised in the Defence Forces climate survey.