Staff issues in Defence Forces as officers take private sector jobs

Representative Association of Commissioned Officers says vacancies causing pressure

The creation of so many vacancies in senior posts that are not being filled has resulted in a heavier workload for those who remain. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

The creation of so many vacancies in senior posts that are not being filled has resulted in a heavier workload for those who remain. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

Leadership ranks within the Defence Forces are being decimated as highly skilled officers take up private sector positions in the recovering economy, the body representing officers has said.

Comdt Earnán Naughton, general secretary of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco), said experienced officers with specialist skills were departing the Defence Forces at an increased rate since 2013.

They were joining companies such as retailers Lidl and Aldi and other organisations where they would enjoy a better work-life balance in well-paid jobs, he said.

There were currently 32 vacancies for officers in the Naval Service and 34 in the Air Corps including for fixed- wing aeroplane pilots and helicopter pilots.

“We have a number gone out to cybersecurity and IT jobs, quite a number of pilots to Ryanair and Aer Lingus and heli pilots gone foreign, or even instructing on aircraft,” Comdt Naughton said.

“When you see 136 officers departing ahead of normal timelines, you have to ask the question: what is the retention issue? And are management facing the retention issue? We would say they are not.”

Unacceptable

While the Government had set the numbers in the Defence Forces at 9,500, the current strength was now down to 9,200. A significant number of those who remained were under more pressure than ever, Comdt Naughton said.

Some had bought homes close to the barracks where they were once based but these were now closed. As those personnel had been redeployed, in many cases to barracks across the country, long commutes had become common. The officers were leaving home on Monday and not returning until Friday, an arrangement many were forced to endure for several years.

Overseas duty

“One officer explained to me that his young son kept saying to him, ‘Dad, I want you to pick me up this Friday, please pick me up on Friday’,” Comdt Naughton said. “And when the father asked him why, he said, ‘I want to show them that I have a father’. That’s a real story.”

While the Defence Forces had in previous years provided living quarters, including houses on bases for families, this was no longer the case.

The number of family dwellings available was now fewer than 10 and accommodation for single personnel was substandard and also had to be paid for by those availing of it.

“People can’t relocate any more,” Comdt Naughton said of the former practice of personnel moving their families as their postings changed.

“It’s cost-prohibitive; people are in negative equity. The reality is that people are facing that weekly commute on an ongoing basis for a number of years at a time.”