Defence Force bodies may be permitted to affiliate to Ictu

Minister expected to rule out granting military personnel the right to strike

Defence Forces: there are a number of outstanding pay adjudications which have been on hold, in some cases for years, as a result of the financial crisis. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Defence Forces: there are a number of outstanding pay adjudications which have been on hold, in some cases for years, as a result of the financial crisis. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Government is expected to signal this week that it is prepared to hold talks about permitting military representative bodies to affiliate to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

However, it is understood the Government will rule out allowing Defence Force personnel to go on strike.

The Minister of State with responsibility for defence issues Paul Kehoe is expected to back the findings of a new review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the permanent Defence Forces.

The Minister is also expected to announce that he will invite the representative body for enlisted military personnel, PDForra, to talks on a number of outstanding pay adjudications which have been on hold, in some cases for years, as a result of the financial crisis. However, any talks are not likely to deal with retrospective payments.

These outstanding adjudications include an increase to €200 a week in the allowance for about 75 members of the special forces Army Ranger Wing which dates back to 2006.

It also includes an increase in technical pay for cooks and supervisory cooks who have completed training modules and who have four years’ experience as cooks. The move could benefit about 220 Defence Force members.

Families of serving defence personnel, and also retired members, protest over low pay in Defence Forces, outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Families of serving defence personnel, and also retired members, protest over low pay in the Defence Forces, outside Leinster House, Dublin, September 19th, 2018. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The Minister is also proposing the talks could cover the current regime for charging recruits and apprentices for rations and accommodation during their training period. This could benefit 400-600 personnel each year.

Scheme review

The review of the conciliation scheme, chaired by industrial relations specialist Gerard Barry, concluded that “the granting of full trade union rights with its associated right to strike would not be compatible with the principles of military service”.

The review suggested that the Department of Defence should engage in discussions with Ictu.

The ability of the Defence Forces to perform all duties as assigned by Government cannot be impeded by affiliation with any organisation

“The practicalities of a representative association forming association/ affiliation with the Ictu should be explored while giving due consideration to any likely conflict that might arise between such an arrangement and the obligations of military service. Should this be viable, discussions could then continue on a more formal basis to include the representative associations.”

The Department of Defence in its submission to the review suggested that Ictu be approached “to ascertain the conditions attached given that any form of industrial action is irreconcilable with military service”.

“Where the Government decides to deploy the Defence Forces for the maintenance of essential services, the ability of the Defence Forces to perform all duties as assigned by Government cannot be impeded by affiliation with any organisation.”

‘Peripheral involvement’

The review in its findings also said the military representative bodies believed they had “only a peripheral involvement” in the recent public service pay negotiations.

“I believe there is a need to devise confidence-building measures and specifically the modalities for their more effective participation in such processes. The combination of their involvement in public service pay negotiations, interaction with the Public Service Pay Commission and access to a revised conciliation and arbitration scheme should provide a solid basis for the representative associations to advance their members’ interests in the future,” the review said.

Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces march to the Dáil in protest against low pay levels of military personnel. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Wives and partners of members of the Defence Forces march to the Dáil in protest against pay levels of military personnel. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Last year the European Committee of Social Rights held that the prohibition on military personnel joining representative associations or joining national employee organisations was a violation of the European Social Charter. However, the committee found that the Government was entitled to restrict the right of military personnel to strike.

In autumn 2017, the Government decided that Garda representative bodies should not be reconstituted as trade unions and that they should not be permitted to go on strike.