I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 56 together.
The Report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces was published on the 4th of July 2019. The Report was accepted in full by the Government at that time and, to facilitate implementation, an extensive High Level Plan titled "Strengthening our Defence Forces – Phase One” was also published on the same date.
The High Level Plan provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. It also proposes a timeframe for actions or projects to commence and identifies the lead actor to implement the action or project. The timeframe for commencement of actions is split into four distinct timelines i.e. immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term.
The project to consider incentivised long service arrangements was set as a medium term project being led by my Department. A Report was produced within the timelines in anticipation that the options be considered in the context of discussions on a new Public Sector Pay Agreement and that these would commence in that time-frame. However, these discussions did not take place within that anticipated timeframe.
The Programme for Government, which was published in June 2020, contains a commitment to establish an independent Commission on the Defence Forces which will consider, amongst other matters, pay and allowances and composition of the Defence Forces. The Programme for Government also states that upon completion of the Commissions work, a permanent pay review body for the Defence Forces will be established.
With regard to sharing the Report with the Representative Associations, it is the case that many of the reports and papers that are produced as part of the high level plan relate to the identification, examination and consideration of options that will inform management deliberations but do not necessarily in themselves represent final proposals or discussion documents for exchange with the Representative Associations.
Furthermore, in some instances, final proposals arising from reports relating to certain pay related measures will be framed by the approach to the next Public Sector pay agreement, which is yet to be finalised. Accordingly, it is not appropriate to provide the Representative Association with access to or a briefing on the content of reports as they are part of an ongoing management deliberative process.
I can confirm that my Department will continue to engage with the Representative Associations, when Official side proposals are finalised.