Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Ceisteanna (79)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the strength of the Defence Forces has stabilised to the extent necessary to achieve recommended strength in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (whole time equivalent) at 30th November 2019, was 8,751 personnel, comprised of:

Army - 7,071

Air Corps - 733

Naval Service - 947

I am very much aware that there continues to be a shortfall between the current strength figures and those of the establishment and I remain committed to restoring the strength of the Defence Forces to 9,500. Recruitment is ongoing and the recruitment process itself remains subject to continuous monitoring and appraisal to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

The Government has 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 restoration of Premium Rates for certain weekend duties.

- the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps.

I welcome the fact that both RACO and PDFORRA have accepted these recommendations.

The Report contains a range of recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service. The Report also recommends an examination of pay structures in the PDF and to identify further retention measures within the context of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations.

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. Work on implementing the plan is underway and, under my direction, is being prioritised by Civil and Military Management.

I am confident that all the measures contained in the plan, coupled 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 address recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force.

However, it should be noted that as the Government's plan contains short, medium and long-term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change. The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Commission and other actions which are underway.