Taoiseach and Ministers welcome the Public Service Pay Commission’s report on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces

4th July, 2019

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D., and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, today (Thursday) welcomed the Public Services Pay Commission’s (PSPC) report examining recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces.

The report was accepted in full at the weekly Cabinet meeting today, at which an extensive implementation plan was also agreed. The PSPC report represents a €10 million package that will result in immediate and future benefits for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF).

Among the proposals contained in the report is a 10 per cent increase in Military Service Allowance (MSA), which applies to all Defence Force personnel and is a unique payment taking account the obligations of military life.

Also, the report recommends the restoration of 10 allowances that were cut under the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA). These include the Patrol Duty Allowance, the Security Duty Allowance, the Army Ranger Wing Allowance and the Explosive Ordnance Allowance.

Premium rates of certain allowances for duties performed at weekends are being returned.  

The 10% cut to Overseas Peace Support Allowance and Overseas Armed Peace Support Allowance will also be restored.

The return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps is also recommended and is welcomed. This will see significant increases to yearly earnings for eligible Flying Officers, with details to follow.

There are also a number of non-pay measures recommended by the Commission. The Commission recommends a review of pay structures in the Defence Forces. A review of technical pay, which will affect around 2,500 specialists, is also recommended.

Separately, the Government will look at retirement ages and consider incentivised longer service schemes for certain NCO and officer ranks. These are all areas that will provide future benefits for members of the Defence Forces.

Importantly today, Cabinet agreed to a high level implementation plan which will set out clearly how the report will be implemented. The plan was devised following consultation between the Departments of An Taoiseach, Defence, Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as Military Management.

The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) was tasked under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, to conduct a comprehensive examination of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff in the public service. The changes contained in the PSPC report are on top of pay increases already being made to Defence Force personnel under the Public Sector Stability Agreement.

The estimated cost on a full year basis of all these measures is approximately €10 million. The Report’s recommendations will be implemented through a high-level plan, with work starting immediately.  The recommended increases in allowances will be implemented on confirmation of these measures by the PDF representatives associations.  The Commission will be making all of its submissions and inputs and the Report publicly available on its website www.paycommission.gov.ie.

The Government’s implementation plan can be viewed here: https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/govieassets/11280/5c5479abade547d38d068883ea132095.pdf 

The Taoiseach and both Ministers acknowledge the work of the Pay Commission and the civil and military staff of the Department of Defence and staff of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform who produced material for the Commission. They also recognise the role played by the two representative associations, PDFORRA and RACO, which made both written and oral submissions to the Commission.

Welcoming the report, The Taoiseach said:

“The men and women of our Defence Forces serve this country with pride and distinction, ensuring the security of our State, protecting our democracy, asserting our sovereignty and participating in peacekeeping missions for the UN and the EU. They also provide essential aid to the civil power, including helping to deal with organised crime.

“Defence Force members are already benefitting from pay rises under the public service pay deal and all those earning less than €70k will have their payscales fully restored by the end of the Agreement in October 2020. However, the Government recognised that there are particular challenges in relation to retention and so we asked the Public Service Pay Commission to consider these issues in detail. Their recommendations, which are being accepted in full by Government, will give Defence Force members more take home pay and these with sought after skills like pilots will be incentivized to stay on. This will make a career in the Army, the Naval Service or the Air Corps a more attractive and sustainable option.”

Commenting on the release of the Commission’s latest Report, Minister Donohoe said:

“The Public Service Pay Commission has submitted a very comprehensive report to me on recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces.  The Government has considered the report today and accepts its main findings. I would like to thank the Chair and the members of the Commission for the important insights they brought to bear on these issues.

“The Commission has made recommendations that respond to the challenges it has identified.

“In addition, it must also be recognised that the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) is currently delivering pay benefits of between 7.4% and 6.2% (or up to 10% for new entrants hired after 2012) for our public servants at a cost of over €1.1bn out to 2021.  Added to that we are implementing the measure agreed with unions last year on new entrant pay which will cost a further €200m over the coming years. By the end of next year over 90% of public servants will have the crisis era FEMPI payscale reductions fully restored.

“I have huge respect for the work that all of our public servants do on a daily basis and that includes in particular the women and men of our Defence Forces.  This Government is committed to delivering incremental improvements to pay for our public servants. But we can, and should, only do so to the extent that is affordable and sustainable.  With such uncertainty in the international environment at present due to Brexit and other factors, it is absolutely necessary that we continue to manage public pay in a careful and responsible manner.

“The Pay Commission’s recommendations on the Defence Forces are additional to the measures I have outlined and, taken together, represent a tangible package of pay improvements at this time for the members of our Defence Forces as parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement.”

Minister Kehoe said:

“When the Public Service Pay Commission was initially established, I instructed the Department of Department of Defence to make the Commission aware of recruitment and retention issues in the Permanent Defence Force. The Commission has now reported with a range of recommendations that will be quickly actioned.

“Among the recommendations, in the report is the reversal of cuts to duty payments, which members of the Defence Forces receive in addition to basic pay and military service allowance when undertaking different categories of duties. A 10% cut that was previously applied to a range of such duties is being reversed. This includes Patrol Duty Allowance, which members of the Naval Service are paid when at sea. A 10% increase in Patrol Duty Allowance equates to around €5 per day. The 10% cut to Overseas Peace Support Allowance and Overseas Armed Peace Support Allowance will also be restored. For a typical six month armed peace support deployment overseas this is worth an additional €1,400 tax free for enlisted personnel and between €1,700 and €1,850 tax free for officers.

“Premium rates for weekend duties are also being restored. The rate for a 24 hour security duty performed on a Sunday will more than double from €47.59 to €105.79.

 “I very much welcome the recommendations to restore the 10% cuts and the higher rates of allowances for certain Saturday and Sunday duties. This will increase the earnings of those members of the Defence Forces who undertake such duties.

“The recommendations from the Public Service Pay Commission will build upon the increases in payscales for members of the Defence Forces over the past two years including the unwinding of FEMPI, the restoration of payscales and improved payscales for new entrants to the Defence Forces.

 “There are no quick fixes to the current difficulties, which are also being experienced by other military organisations internationally. The achievement of strength and capability targets will take time. The recommendations in the Report will now be discussed with the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations and increases in the allowances as recommend by the Commission will be implemented on confirmation of acceptance of the measures. A High Level Implementation Plan has been approved and work will commence on this immediately”.


Notes to Editor:

The independent Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) was established in 2016, to provide the Government with independent advice in relation to public service pay. In 2017, on the instruction of Minister Kehoe issues of recruitment and retention in the Defence Sector were brought to the attention of the Public Sector Pay Commission. As a direct result of that initiative, the Government tasked the Pay Commission to undertake a comprehensive examination and analysis of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention in the Defence Sector. Whilst initially focused on specialists, the Commission’s mandate was broadened to consider all ranks across the Permanent Defence Force.

Military Service Allowances (MSA)

MSA is a sector-specific allowance currently paid to all members of the Defence Forces, up to and including the rank of Colonel with the exception of training grades (Cadets, recruits and apprentices).  It was intended to compensate Defence Forces Personnel for the unique conditions and special disadvantages of military life. Expenditure on MSA was in the region of €46.5m in 2018.

An increase of 10% in Military Service Allowance will constitute an individual benefit of between €602 and €675 p.a. for the majority of personnel with a minimum of €350 p.a. applicable to those on lower rates of the allowance (i.e. those Private 3* and Naval Service equivalents less than three years’ service). . The overall annual estimated cost of this measure is €4.8m p.a.

Security Duty Allowances (SDA)

Security duty allowances are paid in respect of a range of security duties to which Defence personnel are detailed to perform including for example Aid to the Civil Power, security of vital installations, etc.  Approximately 75% of DF personnel received payment for security duties in 2017.

The 10% cuts to overseas allowances will also be restored.  For a typical six month armed peace support duty this means approximately an additional €1,400 tax free for enlisted personnel and between €1,700 and €1,850 tax free for officers. In 2018 more than 1900 members of the Defence Forces served overseas. The overall estimated cost of the restoration of this measure is €3.3m p.a.

Weekend Duties:

Premium rates for weekend duties to be restored. The rate for a 24 hour security duty performed on a Sunday will more than double from €47.59 to €105.79. The annual estimated cost of this measure is €1.4m p.a.

Service Commitment Scheme (SCS)

In 1997 the first SCS was introduced, with a second scheme in 1999.  The most recent scheme commenced in 2002 and ran to 2010.

Under the scheme, Flying Officers were given the option of committing to serve for either 3, 5, 7or 8 years in return for an agreed annual payment and a terminal bonus on completion of the 5, 7 or 8 year commitment.  The gratuities available were designed to strike a fair and reasonable balance between the demands of the external commercial environment and the need to exercise responsibility in relation to public service pay.

The cost of restoring this measure is estimated at €600k pa depending on take up.

Overseas Peace Support Allowance / Overseas Armed Peace Support Allowance (OPSA/OAPSA):

These are allowances paid for those deployed overseas, typically on a six month tour of duty.  It is paid tax-free.  The 10% cut to these allowances is being restored and is worth an additional €1,400 tax free for enlisted personnel and between €1,700 and €1,850 tax free for officers.

With this restoration, each time a member of the PDF goes on overseas deployment for a six-month period, average earnings are between €15k and €20k tax free on top of basic pay.