Similar to other sectors in the public service, the pay of Permanent Defence Force personnel was reduced as one of the measures to assist in stabilising national finances during the financial crisis.
Improvements within the economy have provided an opportunity to begin the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation which imposed pay cuts across the Public Service during the financial crisis.
Pay is being restored to members of the Defence Forces and other public servants 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, which was accepted by members of the Permanent Defence Force through their representative associations, provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the Agreement. The increases due under the agreement from 1 January 2018, 1 October 2018 and 1 January 2019 have been paid to Permanent Defence Force personnel. Further increases in pay are scheduled in 2019 and 2020.
By the end of the current Public Service Pay agreement the payscales of all public servants (including members of the Defence Forces), earning under €70,000 per annum, will be restored to pre FEMPI levels. The restoration of the 5% reduction to allowances cut under FEMPI is also scheduled as part of that agreement.
New entrants who joined the Defence Forces since 2011, may also benefit from the measures which were recently announced in relation to interventions at points 4 and 8 of the pay scales for relevant new entrants to the public service.
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 Defence Forces have always had a level of turnover that exceeds other areas of the public service.
In order to balance personnel turnover there is ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.
With regard to other retention measures, there are a range of actions outlined in the White Paper on Defence (2015) which are aimed at enhancing the capabilities of the Defence Forces. These include HR initiatives which impact on retention such as providing career development opportunities and accreditation. The criteria for extending service beyond twelve years have been revised and this has ensured that personnel who would have had to depart could remain. An examination of age profiles for enlisted personnel has been prioritised and this is being progressed. A gap analysis of skill sets in the Permanent Defence Force is also being prioritised. In addition, the military authorities have introduced further initiatives to enhance work-life balance and this is also to be welcomed.
In accordance with the provisions of Public Services Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the Government has tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with conducting a comprehensive examination of specific recruitment and retention challenges in the Defence Sector. The Commission's work is on-going. The Government will give due consideration to the findings and any recommendations that arise from the work of the Commission.