“IT’S not ecstatic,” was the succinct answer given by a Defences Forces wife when asked how the mood was in the wake of the Government’s €10m band-aid this week on military pay.
However, Sarah Walshe from the Curragh, spokesperson on welfare for the WPDF, (Wives & Partners Defence Forces) was nothing if not fair in her assessment of the State’s efforts to staunch the exodus of manpower from the services.
“We’re very pleased at least with the weekend duty allowance – that’s the biggest positive out of it,” she said.
She was referring to the allowances paid above basic wages that soldiers get paid for out-of-hour duties which they get in lieu of overtime. The Irish Defence Forces (IDF) are Constitutionally prohibited from receiving paid overtime.
These measures were finally brought in last week after a report from the Public Service Pay Commission revealed that more than half of the enlisted ranks planned to leave the IDF within two years, citing poor pay.
Last year turnover of staff had risen to 8.1% from 5.1%t in 2013.
Ms Walshe also voiced some gratitude for the immediate 10% rise in the military service allowance – basic pay – but explained how this amounted to an annual raise of just €350 for a two-star private, up to €675 for a corporal.
“It sounds a lot, but break it down in to a weekly wage and it’s a pittance, not a lot to hold people” she said.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but they failed to look at the Monday to Friday duties. We’re still only going to come out with an extra €20 per week after tax,” she explained.
Ms Walshe also noted that there would be a larger increase in pay (15 per cent) for those who joined after 2013, than for those in before that date (10 per cent), which she welcomed.
A statement released by PDFORRA – the formal IDF representative body – broadly mirrored Ms Walshe’s concerns, fears and gratitudes.
“PDFORRA remains deeply concerned about the overall approach to renumeration of our members… [and] will now undertake a detailed review of the findings made by the Commission,” said General Secretary, Gerard Guinan.
“[We] will be writing to the Department of Defence to clarify some of the issues…It remains to be seen if the recommendations made are sufficient to retain members who have waited all too long and patiently for this report.
“While some of the recommendations go some way towards meeting the terms of the submission, in other instances they fall considerably short.
“[We have] pointed out on numerous occasions that there must be some correlation between pay and hours worked. This requires the urgent amendment of the current rates of duty allowances”.