The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (whole time equivalent), across all services, at 31st August 2019, was 8,653 personnel. Whilst I am very much aware that there continues to be a shortfall between the current strength figures and those of the establishment I remain committed to restoring the strength of the Defence Forces to 9,500.
The Government have acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces that must be addressed. It is a fact that members of the Permanent Defence Force are being attracted to jobs elsewhere in a buoyant labour market.
In light of the particular difficulties being faced by the Defence Sector, the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of recruitment and retention issues in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF).
The Commission’s Report, which has been accepted by Government, contains a broad range of recommendations which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force as well as initiatives that can lead to further improvements, these include:
- a 10% increase in Military Service Allowance,
- the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances,
- the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps.
These measures will be implemented swiftly on confirmation of acceptance by the Permanent Defence Force representative associations.
The Report also contains a range of recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service.
The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out the timelines and objectives, indicating the commitment to deliver on the Pay Commission’s recommendations. The plan also provides for an examination of core pay in the PDF and to identify further retention measures within the context of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. Work on implementing the plan is underway and, under my direction, is being prioritised by Civil and Military Management.
I am confident that the implementation of the PSPC’s recommendations, in tandem with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the most recent being a 1.5% increase on 1st September, will ameliorate current recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force. These measures will build upon a range of recruitment and retention actions already in train.