I am advised that 1,902 personnel left the Permanent Defence Force in the three-year period from 2015 to 2017, inclusive. This includes 459 personnel who did not complete initial training to qualify as three-star privates or officers. Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.
For example, in the three-year period 2010 to 2012, 1,903 personnel left the PDF. Going back further, 2,282 left in the three-year period 2001 to 2003.
To balance personnel turnover there is significant ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level. During 2017, 751 personnel were inducted into the PDF. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.
Unlike other areas of the public service, and due to the nature of the duties performed, overtime payments are not available to members of the Defence Forces. A military service allowance is paid to all ranks up to the level of colonel. Military service allowance is designed to compensate for the special disadvantages associated with military life. This includes unsocial hours of duty, exposure to danger and the restrictions inherent in military discipline. In addition to basic pay and military service allowance, a range of duties attract additional allowances, including security duty and Naval Service patrol duty. Overseas support allowance is paid to members of the PDF participating in overseas military operations on direction of the Government. Certain positions in the Defence Forces also attract specialist pay, with some 3,554 positions in the PDF establishment attracting technical pay.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Defence Forces pay is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus of the agreement once again being on the lower paid. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 will also restore pay scales to all public servants, including members of the Permanent Defence Force, earning up to €70,000. The reversal of cuts to allowances will also be considered in the context of the agreement. The first instalment of an increase of 1% on annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.
The starting pay for newly qualified three-star privates and their Naval Service equivalents, inclusive of military service allowance, is €27,257 gross annual earnings, with scope for further income from duty allowances. This is a significant increase on the €21,800 per annum which was the amount prior to the implementation of the increases in pay received through recent pay agreements. The starting pay for a corporal, including military service allowance, is in excess of €37,000 per annum. The first point on the pay scale for a sergeant, including military service allowance, is €40,000 per annum. As I have outlined, further increases are due under the pay agreement.
The working family payment, formerly the family income supplement, provides a means to supplement the income of working families, be they employees in the public or private sector. Family income and the number of dependants are the key variables in determining eligibility. Pay levels in the public service, including the Defence Forces, relate to requirements for specific positions and are not determined having regard to unique family circumstances.
I have previously stated that there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining specialists in the PDF. This includes pilots and certain other technical specialists. The Government has tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining recruitment and retention challenges in the defence sector in more detail. The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested detailed information from the Department of Defence. Defence management is preparing its submission, which will be sent to the commission in the coming weeks. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this exercise in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.
The capabilities maintained by the Defence Forces are based on detailed consideration of capability requirements and agreed by military authorities. With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, the Government is committed to retaining the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and abroad.