Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Defence Forces Remuneration

Jack Chambers


33. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme in the Defence Forces further to the Barry report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9303/19]

What is the status of the review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme in the Defence Forces further to the Barry report? Could the Minister of State make a statement on the matter? He received the report in the autumn. What progress has been made since?

I should have stated when dealing with the previous question that the Deputy's party abolished the service commitment scheme in the Air Corps.

The conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the Permanent Defence Force representative associations, namely, PDFORRA and RACO, to engage with the official side.

Having regard to commitments made under pay agreements, members of the Permanent Defence Force can make representations in regard to their pay and conditions of service through their representative bodies.

In light of the many changes in the industrial relations landscape since the establishment of the scheme, I initiated a fundamental review of the scheme and appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to conduct the review. A copy of Mr. Barry's report is available on the website of the Department of Defence for all to see.

Following publication of the report, an initial meeting to advance the recommendations in Mr. Barry's report took place between the representative and official sides. Arising from that meeting, the Department of Defence contacted the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, to seek its assistance in progressing the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report through a revised conciliation and arbitration scheme. Officials in the Department of Defence recently wrote to the representative associations advising them of the name of a person suggested by the WRC who can facilitate the process. I am anxious that the parties conclude their discussions as soon as possible and arrive at an agreed revised conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force.

I was delighted to learn that, after the question was submitted last week, the Defence Forces representative associations were contacted by the Department. That was an ironic coincidence.

The Deputy is great with words.

Is it the Minister of State's intention to implement all the recommendations? Have any of the recommendations been advised against by his officials? What timeframe does he have in mind? We have had a timeframe of months in which there has not even been a meeting to make progress on this. Will it be like many of the other difficulties involving the Department whereby those concerned hear from the Department once or twice a year and there is no proper advancement? We need to know the recommendations the Minister of State wants to support and to implement this year and next. With what recommendations does he have difficulty? We have no view from him on the recommendations in the Barry report.

This is not my scheme; this is a scheme for the representative associations, namely PDFORRA and RACO. I very much welcome the report by Mr. Barry. Both representative associations have been seeking changes to the conciliation and arbitration scheme for the past 15 years. In 2016, when this matter was brought to my attention at the PDFORRA conference, representatives stated they had considerable concerns and reservations about the current scheme.

I then set about considering what was the best way to address the concerns of both PDFORRA and RACO. I decided to appoint an independent person to look at the current scheme. Mr. Gerald Barry examined it and I want both organisations to implement his report because it contains really good recommendations. It addresses the concerns and was welcomed by both PDFORRA and RACO. It is now up to the associations, in conjunction with my Department and the military, to accept this and move on. I was asked to appoint an independent chairperson. When the facilitator concludes all the work, I want to, and will, appoint an independent chairperson of the conciliation and arbitration scheme.

When does the Minister of State think that will occur? One of the recommendations in the Barry report states that there should be a significant allocation of resources in order to facilitate the report's implementation. Has the Department provided for a separate allocation to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations this year? That is a concern of the representative associations. The Minister of State will not be able to deliver on the recommendations if money has not been set aside. Can he provide information on the cost of that allocation? Does he agree that the provision of an effective parallel process form for engagement with the associations to any pay or collective bargaining issues of the public service should be a key policy objective?

I am not going to pre-empt the talks between my Department and the representative associations. I would like to get this work concluded as soon as possible. It is in everybody's interest that we put in place the recommendations of the report compiled by Mr. Barry. Much work has gone on in the background and I understand the cost will be met by means of the existing resources of the Department. However, I can come back to the Deputy on that. I do not think there will be a large cost involved. I am not aware of that. I can come back to the Deputy.

It is fundamental that we implement the changes to the conciliation and arbitration scheme recommended in the Barry report. I encourage PDFORRA and RACO in this regard. This matter could be resolved in a very short time and there is no reason the new, independently-chaired scheme cannot be ready before the summer.

That concludes questions to the Minister of State at the Department of Defence.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.
Sitting suspended at 4.53 p.m. until 5.17 p.m.