The Department of Defence is to recommend the reintroduction of a loyalty bonus payment for Air Corps pilots in an attempt to encourage them to remain in the Defence Forces.
A similar “service commitment scheme” which saw some personnel receive additional payments of up to €22,000 on top of salary was withdrawn in 2013.
The recommendation for the reintroduction of the loyalty payment will be made in a submission to be sent by the Department of Defence to the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC).
The provision of such a loyalty bonus will be closely watched by other groups, such as medical consultants and nurses, where staff shortages are also evident, and could trigger demands for similar rewards.
Official figures show that there are currently 80 pilots actually in place, while the establishment figure is 107
The PSPC is examining issues affecting recruitment and retention in the health sector and the Defence Forces initially, and is scheduled to produce reports in the months ahead.
There are currently nearly 30 vacancies for pilots in the Air Corps. Official figures show that there are currently 80 pilots actually in place, while the establishment figure is 107.
In addition, it is understood that six additional pilots have indicated that they plan to leave the Air Corps in the near future, with some considering taking up roles at Aer Lingus.
It is understood that the scale of the vacancies at pilot level has led Paul Keogh, Minister of State with responsibility for Defence, to determine that this area should be given priority in the Department of Defence's submission to the PSPC.
However it, is expected that the Department of Defence will also make submissions on recruitment and retention difficulties in other areas to the PSPC in the weeks ahead.
A spokesman for the Minister said at the weekend: “The Minister recognises certain recruitment and retention issues within the Defence Forces. The Public Service Pay Commission, as a follow-up to their earlier work, are examining these issues.
“On Minister Kehoe’s request, the first material being forwarded from the Defence organisation will relate to Air Corps pilots. Work is ongoing in relation to further material which will consider the recruitment and retention challenges in other areas of the Defence Forces.”
Overall the Air Corps has currently about 150 fewer actual personnel of all ranks than officially permitted. The establishment employment level of the Air Corps is 886 personnel of all ranks,while at the end of February the actual strength of the Air Corps was 730.