Thursday, 8 November 2007
Defence Forces Allowances.
A claim for an increase in overseas allowance was received from the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers under the conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The claim has been the subject of correspondence between the Department and the representative associations. The Deputy will appreciate that as discussions under the conciliation and arbitration scheme are confidential to the parties involved it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time other than to say that the claim will have to meet the terms of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016.
I remind the Minister of State that his senior colleague made a commitment at the PDFORRA conference of 2006 that if PDFORRA made a case for an increase in allowances he would receive it very favourably. The understanding at the time was that an increase of 10% to 15% would be requested, but I understand that what is on offer is just 5%. The overseas allowance ranges from €74 to €80. In essence, for the lower paid this will mean an increase of €3.72 per day and for the higher paid €4 per day. Surely that is not a great incentive. They are not doing it for the money but they want their service valued.
The Government will soon be recruiting for Chad which will be a very dangerous mission. An article in today's edition of The Irish Times pointed out that this will be the most dangerous mission since the Congo. Surely these people should be properly paid and should receive the proper incentives. Will the Minister of State expand on what he has said? Will serious consideration be given to increasing the allowance to between 10% and 15%?
I have no doubt whatsoever about the contribution made by our peacekeepers abroad. There is no harm in reiterating time and again the tremendous work they do throughout the world in very dangerous situations. I start on that basis and totally concur with the Deputy.
In his address to the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association annual delegate conference in 2006 the Minister for Defence invited the association to submit a claim for an increase in overseas allowance. A claim for an increase in the allowance from PDFORRA and RACO was subsequently received and, as I said in my reply, is being dealt with under the conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. I again acknowledge the work they do abroad — we all value their work. However, whether an overseas allowance is warranted is a matter to be determined through the conciliation and arbitration process, subject to the requirements of the current national wage agreement. There is a process through which this claim must be addressed. I cannot go beyond that. The discussions in the conciliation and arbitration scheme are confidential to the parties involved and it would not be appropriate for me to comment other than to acknowledge, as the Deputy has already done, the tremendous work being done by our personnel abroad.
A clear signal is coming out that 5% will not be adequate or acceptable. I ask the Minister of State to support as much as possible an increase of 10% to 15%, given that the Minister accepted the principle of an increase at the conference in October 2006.
It is obvious that any Minister or Minister of State like myself would be very supportive of the work our Army personnel do abroad. The Minister invited PDFORRA to make its claim and the process is now under way. We need to allow that process to develop. While we must acknowledge the work that has been done, we cannot interfere in this process.