Soldiers to join Ictu protest over pension levy today


SOLDIERS WILL today join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ national protest against the Government’s plan to impose a pension levy on State employees, along with leaders of Garda representative organisations.

In a statement yesterday, soldiers’ representative body PDforra said members of its national executive would take part in the Dublin protest this afternoon.

PDforra general secretary, Gerry Rooney said its participation was to show support for Ictu’s efforts and the organisation is satisfied that attendance “is not contrary to any military regulations”.

Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea said he had “no problem” with PDforra representing the views of its members, as long as it complied with the rules laid down in the Defence (Amendment) Act, 1990. “The legal and regulatory provisions surrounding representation in the Defence Forces are particular to the Defence Forces.

“They represent a carefully crafted compromise between the rights of the association to represent members and the unique requirements of a disciplined military organisation. These provisions bind both sides to the process,” he said.

Regarding PDforra’s plan to take part, the Minister said “it would not be appropriate to draw any conclusions in advance of the demonstration”.

Mr Rooney said “ordinary members” of the Defence Forces are angry that they were being “singled out to pay a pension levy when others, some of whom are very highly paid, are making no contribution to help resolve the poor budgetary situation”.

“It is accepted that everyone will have to contribute towards resolving the current problems but this should be done in a fair and equitable manner. The unjust measures proposed by the Government will place undue hardship on many of our members who have young families and are not in receipt of large salaries. We have had a large number of calls from members all around the country, who fail to understand why they are being targeted – not having contributed in any way to the current crisis.”

The decision of PDforra earlier this month to demand assurances that it would not be used to break public servants’ strikes has caused considerable disquiet among senior officers. The Army Chief of Staff, Lieut Gen Dermot Earley, has already made it clear to PDforra representatives that the Defence Forces will “do its duty” if asked by the Government.

However, it is now understood that senior officers below Lieut Gen Earley have equally spoken to the men and women under their command about their responsibilities under the law.

Privately, senior officers charged that PDforra is out of touch with its own membership: “Many people are very uncomfortable with what is going on,” one source told The Irish Times.

Meanwhile, a tax-free allowance enjoyed by members of the Defence Forces serving overseas will not be subjected to the pension levy, Mr O’Dea has confirmed.

The Overseas Peace Support Allowances for officers above commandant rank are worth €88.34 per day; and €80.29 for other officers. The tax-free rates for enlisted personnel serving abroad in places such as Chad are €65.63 per day for sergeants; €63.44 for corporals and €61.20 for privates.

In addition, officers get an extra €24.71 per day tax-free for an armed peace support allowance and a €23.58 tax-free allowance for enlisted personnel. The announcement was made by Mr O’Dea to the Oireachtas Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights committee.