The day-to-day tasking of personnel in the Defence Forces is a matter for the military authorities. I can assure the Deputy that the health and safety of personnel in the Defence Forces remains a priority for myself and the Chief of Staff.
The Working Time Directive has been transposed into national legislation by way of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. As the Deputy will be aware, the Defence Forces are excluded from the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The Government has committed to amending this Act and bringing the Defence Forces and An Gárda Síochana within the scope of its provisions.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is the lead Department for this legislative process and the Department of Defence is working closely with that Department and the Department of Justice and Equality on the provisions for the proposed legislation.
The Working Time Directive recognises the unique nature of certain military activities and allows for exemptions of such activities in certain circumstances. The Directive also provides for derogations for specific activities. The Defence Forces have undertaken a comprehensive examination of work practices and have identified where derogations or exemptions may be required. As the Deputy will appreciate, the issues being considered are complex and there is a requirement to ensure that health and safety of personnel is protected whilst the Defence Forces retain operational effectiveness. This has informed work on the required legislative changes.
A subcommittee of Conciliation and Arbitration Council (comprising of the Representative Associations, military and civil management) has been established to discuss matters relating to implementation of the Working Time Directive. Arising from those discussions, amended practices regarding compensatory rest have been introduced. This builds upon existing work practices, the majority of which already meet the requirements of the Directive.
My Department and the Defence Forces are fully committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Working Directive are applied throughout the Defence Forces.