Thursday, 11 July 2019
Public Service Pay Commission Report on the Permanent Defence Force: Statements (Resumed)
I begin by quoting from a post to the Facebook page of the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces, WPDF, last week:
Today was a new low. I had to put water in the milk to have enough for the children. We dont even have enough for breakfast for all. I am on leave but I am gonna go into the barracks, throw on a uniform and sneak in the cookhouse to grab some free lunch and hopefully I'll take some milk by pretending it's for the guard room. I have the [Society of St. Vincent de Paul] coming out tonight in the hope that they can help me. Can't afford to leave the job and cant live on what I get paid. I'm at my wits end.
It is in the context of such conditions that the Minister of State's suite of measures must be assessed. They must also be assessed in the context of the €10 million increase in the Defence Forces' pay, given that the Garda overtime for the visit of Donald Trump to this country for a couple of days was also €10 million. It needs to be measured against the fact that the Department of Defence's pay budget for last year was underspent to the tune of €29.4 million, or three times the sum allocated in this suite of measures. There would have been no increases whatsoever if it was not for the agitation and campaigning work done by the likes of the WPDF, and shown in the respect and loyalty protests and by the numerous members of the Defence Forces who have spoken out in social and traditional media.
The general secretary of RACO, Commandant Conor King, stated the proposals will not cut it. The mood among the ranks seems to be that they do not just fall short but far short. The military service allowance is to increase but by only 96 cent per day before tax.The seagoing allowance is to increase but by only €2.50 per day. A day in the Naval Service, however, is not seven and a half or eight hours. In some cases, it means 24 hours, long days indeed. Duty allowance is to be restored for Saturdays and Sundays, at €70 and €80 per day, respectively. That is to be welcomed but what about duty allowance for a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday and a Friday? It will stay at the same low rate of €20 per day for a 24-hour shift. The increases, albeit small, may have a double-edged effect on some families. They will push some families above the cut-off points, meaning they will no longer qualify for the working family allowance, the medical card and the back to school allowance. Small amounts given with one hand can be taken back with the other. Shelley Cotter of the WPDF summed it up well when she stated that last week was a huge lost opportunity.
The Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, is reported to be weighing up the question of a ballot on the matter. It will make its decision but I strongly encourage PDFORRA to organise a ballot, as the ranks should have a say on this proposal. There is much opposition to it as it does not go far enough. On 10 August, the next respect and loyalty demonstration will take place in Galway. I hope it will be a big event and I encourage a large turnout.
Part of the proposal is to provide a road towards membership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. That is a positive recommendation, which I welcome, but there is still no right to strike. The failure of the Minister to listen and of the pay commission and Minister to act means that the day when the ranks demand the right to strike, which exists in other countries, has come somewhat closer.