Military pilots could receive €200,000 under loyalty scheme, says Minister

Pay for newly-qualified Defence Force personnel is ‘competitive’ – Department

Military pilots who agree to remain in the Air Corps for eight years could receive payments of more than €200,000 under a new loyalty bonus scheme, the Minister of State with responsibility for defence Paul Kehoe has said.

In a statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Defence ahead of an appearance on Thursday, he said the Government was aware of the recruitment and retention difficulties being experienced in the Defence Forces, particularly in relation to certain specialists.

However the Minister said there was “perhaps an unhealthy focus on headline turnover rates” in the Defence Forces.

“With a turnover rate of 8.1 per cent in 2018, this is not significantly at variance with other military forces internationally. However, it is the underlying figures that are important, including the extent to which personnel can be replaced, particularly where there are long lead times for training. The goal is to have sustainable and healthy turnover, which is necessary to allow personnel to develop and progress through the ranks.”

Briefing material given by the Department of Defence to the committee said 706 personnel left the Defence Forces this year up to the end of October, including 56 officers, more than 500 enlisted personnel and over 140 recruits during training.

There were 576 personnel taken into the Defence Forces up to mid-November this year.

The department argued that pay rates for newly-qualified members of the Defence Forces were competitive when compared to other areas within the public service and private sector.

“For instance, a newly-qualified three-star private can expect to earn a minimum of €28,255 gross per annum (including military service allowance). This compares very favourably with the starting pay for a clerical officer in a local authority for example, who starts at around €24,000 per annum.”

Mr Kehoe said that in order to deal with specific issues in relation to the retention of pilots in the Air Corps, a serviced commitment scheme was being re-introduced on foot of a Public Service Pay Commission recommendation.

Terminal bonus

In return for a service commitment, which can vary between there, five and eight years, “broadly speaking”, he said, there will be: an annual payment of just over €22,000 to flying officers holding the ranks of captain, commandant or lieutenant colonel; the 5 per cent restoration of cuts to allowances that applied under (financial emergency legislation) Fempi, scheduled for October 1st, 2020; and pilots may also receive a terminal bonus of between approximately €14,800 and €37,000.

“A flying officer of captain, commandant or lieutenant colonel rank who gives a full eight-year commitment from the start could earn just over €200,000 under the scheme.”

The Minister said that among other initiatives from which members of the Defence Forces would benefit were a 10 per cent increase in military service allowance; the restoration of the rates of certain duties allowance that were reduced under a previous national public service accord and the re-instatement of other premium rates for weekend duties.

Mr Kehoe said the Government was committed to reaching a strength of 9,500 defence personnel “and recognises that achieving this strength is a key challenge for the Chief of Staff and the Defence Forces”.

He said the combination of short-, medium- and longer-term initiatives was intended to fully address recruitment and retention difficulties.

“The full impact of these measures will take time to achieve. It must also be recognised that there are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change.”

“The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission and other actions which are underway.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent