I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 141 together.
The nature of military service requires that the age and health profile of personnel in the Defence Forces must be appropriately managed to ensure that capability requirements are met. In this context, the Defence Forces have a higher level of turnover than other areas of the public service and this is a feature of military organisations internationally.
Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Irish public service have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. 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 further 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. A 1% increase in annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.
In 2017, under my direction, the Department of Defence raised recruitment and retention issues as part of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission. In a further acknowledgement of these issues the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining these 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 have forwarded some material and further material will be sent to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the coming weeks. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this work in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.
There is also an ongoing programme of HR development within the Defence Organisation, of which part is aimed at ensuring that there is an appropriate work-life balance. The Chief of Staff is actively addressing matters in the Defence Forces to this end. I have also initiated a number of initiatives ranging from a review of the C&A scheme, a review of the criteria governing contracts for enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap analysis across the Defence Forces. I am also bringing forward measures to allow former members of the Defence Forces with specialist skills, to re-enter the Defence Forces.
There are significant recruitment opportunities currently available in the Defence Forces, at both enlisted and officer level, for eligible individuals who wishes to have a rewarding and positive career in service to the State.
A General Service Recruitment campaign was launched on 26 March 2018 and an Air Corps Apprentice Competition launched on 3 March 2018. The 2018 Officer Cadetships competition also launched last month. The Naval Service is currently recruiting Direct Entry Officers for Bridge Watch-keeping, Marine Engineering and Electrical Engineering roles. The Defence Forces are also accepting applications from qualified doctors for careers in the Medical Corps.
The measures I have set out address a range of factors and are aimed at ensuring that the Defence Forces remains a career of choice, and to ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capabilities to undertake the roles assigned by Government.