Ictu backs bid by Defence Forces personnel to join union group

Sources said military representative association not interested in securing right to strike

The move towards unionisation has been strongly opposed by the leadership of the Defence Forces. File image: Brenda Fitzsimons

The move towards unionisation has been strongly opposed by the leadership of the Defence Forces. File image: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has approved in principle an application by the representative body for enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces to a link up with the trade union movement.

The Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) had sought to become an associate member of Ictu.

The move has been strongly opposed by the leadership of the Defence Forces.

Informed sources said PDFORRA had indicated it was not interested in securing a right to strike.

Ictu general secretary Patricia King said a meeting of its executive council on Wednesday had accepted the application by PDFORRA in principle. She said Ictu would now seek to conclude talks with the Department of Defence on the issue.

She said she did not think the matters to be discussed with the Department of Defence would be controversial despite comments from some quarters about the move.

Pay

Ms King said the basic aim of PDFORRA was to be represented by the public service committee of Ictu in matters of pay .

She said PDFORRA had been explicit on that issue in its application.

“Quite candidly, without reading any other matters into it, PDFORRA want to be included in the room where those decisions (on pay) are made and where those issues are negotiated.”

“They are representing workers, public service workers and we think there is no reason whatsoever- security risk or otherwise, we don’t accept any of that. We think these people deserve to have their voice heard and have the fullest possible representation.”

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett had, in a letter to the Government, set out his opposition to the attempt by PDFORRA to affiliate with Ictu.

In the letter sent to both Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar and Minister of State with responsibility for defence Paul Kehoe, Vice-Admiral Mellett said the move would have “potential implications for the security of the State”.

A spokesman for MrKeogh said the Minister noted the decision by the Ictu executive council to accept, in principle, PDFORRA’s application to associate.

“The feasability of association is the subject of ongoing discussion and engagement with Ictu.”

“The implications of any possible decision around association or affiliation are being carefully considered.”

PDFORRA welcomed the Ictu decision. It acknowledged that it would need the permission of the Minister of Defence to affiliate to Ictu and said it would be writing to him after it received formal notification of the decision to accept it application in principle.

It said affiliation to Ictu could “only assist in maintaining and improving the pay/allowances of its members, as it has done with other public servants”.

“Therefore, given the current crisis within the Defence Forces, we hope that the Department engage with us as a matter of urgency on the issue of Ictu membership.”

The representative body for commissioned officers in the Defence Forces, Raco, has not sought to affiliate with Ictu and set out strong concerns about any such a link-up in a letter to Mr Kehoe earlier this month.

The Irish Times understands that Raco said in its letter to the Minister that its members believed trade unionism, including the right to take industrial action, was incompatible with military service.

Rather than linking up with trade unions to deal with pay negotiations, Raco has urged the Government to establish an independent, standing Defence Force pay review body.