Military officers feels ‘exploited’ over pay and conditions

Representative body argues lack of union rights puts it at disadvantage in pay talks

“We are prohibited from trade union membership, affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions by extension and any form of industrial agitation”

“We are prohibited from trade union membership, affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions by extension and any form of industrial agitation”

 

Military officers believe they are being exploited and marginalised in negotiations on their pay and conditions because of restrictions placed upon them as members of the Defence Forces, their representative body has claimed.

Lt Col Earnán Naughton, the general secretary of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, told his organisation’s biennial conference in Naas that officers in the Defence Forces felt betrayed.

“As military personnel we forgo normal employee status. There are particular demands associated with military service such as 24/365 obligation for duty. We are subject to military law. We are not covered by the European working time directive. We have forced retirement at age 47, 54 and 58, depending on the rank.

“We are prohibited from trade union membership, affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions by extension and any form of industrial agitation like that some others may take or threaten to secure their end.”

He argued that in recognition of what military personnel forgo, management “had an obligation to fill the space that others secure by influence of trade union membership and taking or threatening strike action”.

He said officers believed without question that the restrictions faced by military personnel were being exploited by the management side.

Side deals

Lt Col Naughton said that for the recent public service pay talks the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers was permitted in the room where the negotiations were under way. However, he said, the main negotiations on a centralised pay accord took place with the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

As his organisation was outside of congress, “we have no influence on whether or not a new agreement will be accepted. The voting influence is with the public service committee of Ictu. Putting us into that sort of environment, where we have no influence, means we are second division.”

Lt Col Naughton expressed strong concern that while the pay agreement reached last summer was reinforced by additional “side deals” concluded by the Government with unions affiliated to congress, no such arrangements were offered to his association.

He said the Department of Defence and the Department of Public Expenditure had insisted to military representative organisations that no side deals would be entered into as part of the talks.

Lt Col Naughton said the biennial conference would examine the role played by the Armed Forces Pay Review Board in the UK, which has a commission in place on a permanent basis to study pay and conditions.

The conference heard there has been a major exodus of personnel from the Defence Forces in recent years, leaving many positions vacant.

Lt Col Naughton said one Army brigade had only 36 per cent of established officer levels, while one battalion had between five and seven officers out of a designed number of 25.