Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Department of Defence
Defence Forces Representative Organisations
127. To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which he and the military authorities continue to engage with the various representative bodies in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47390/13]
Since taking up office as Minister for Defence, in March 2011, I have met with the Defence Forces Representative Associations on a number of occasions. On 8 April 2011, 9 November 2012 and 23 May 2013 I met with both the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA). I also attended the PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference last month and am scheduled to attend the RACO Biennial Delegate Conference next month. At these meetings the Associations raised with me the issues of concern to their membership. In that regard, inter alia , we discussed the Public Service Agreements; the major reorganisation of the Defence Forces; the reduction in the numbers serving in the Defence Forces and the importance of on-going targeted recruitment and the filling of vacancies in the command structure so as to maintain essential Defence Forces operations and capabilities; promotions; and, in respect of PDFORRA, their request for affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
On 6 May 2011, I also met with Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association (RDFRA) who outlined their concerns in relation to recruitment and promotion within the RDF so as to maintain its operational capability. All meetings were conducted in a very positive and constructive manner. I confirmed to the Associations that I was committed to maintaining the essential capabilities of the Defence Forces within the resource envelope available. I also assured them of my commitment to Defence Forces participation in international peace support operations and my understanding of the importance of such operations to maintaining military capability and the professional development of the Defence Forces. I recognised the important contribution which the Associations can continue to make to the ongoing modernisation of the Defence Forces. Despite the difficult circumstances we continue to face, it is important that we continue to engage all stakeholders in the process of reform and transformation and address, as far as we can, the concerns of those affected by the difficult decisions sometimes required. I also advised the Associations that they could seek to meet me at any time on issues of concern to them and assured them that my officials would continue to engage pro-actively with them through the various consultative arrangements already in place.
My officials meet with RACO and PDFORRA on a regular basis in relation to work within the framework of the Public Service Agreement 2010 – 2014 and the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013 – 2016. They also meet regularly in various Council and Council Sub-committee meetings under the auspices of the Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.
My officials meet with RDFRA as required to discuss matters of concern to their members. In addition my officials have been having a series of bi-lateral meetings with RDFRA in relation to the re-organisation of the RDF which is currently underway. These meetings, chaired by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support), attended by Military personnel and Departmental staff afford RDFRA an opportunity to raise issues they may have in relation to the re-organisation of the Reserve. Similar meetings were held with RACO and PDFORRA at which they were afforded the opportunity to raise issues they had in connection with the PDF Cadre support staff in relation to the re-organisation of the Reserve. In addition to these bi-lateral meetings my officials meet with RDFRA as required
Military management also meet regularly with the Associations in Military Forum. I am regularly briefed by my officials and by the Military Authorities in relation to the issues and concerns of the Associations.
I remain satisfied that there are sufficient and robust systems in place within the Defence Organisation to ensure that issues of concern to members of the Defence Forces are brought to my attention, as appropriate.