Government proposals for a separate pay review body for Defence Forces personnel could undermine a process in place for over 50 years for determining pay across the public service, the trade union movement has warned.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) said Defence Forces personnel should enjoy the same basic employment rights as every other worker.
It said compliance with the terms of the Organisation of Working Time Act was “of particular concern” in relation to the Defence Forces.
In a submission to the Commission on the Defence Forces, Ictu said it did not support the establishment of the separate pay review body.
However, it said the current situation whereby the military representative bodies were precluded from participation in the current public service pay determination process was unsatisfactory and unsustainable.
The programme for government says that upon completion of the commission’s work, “a permanent pay review body will be established, reflecting the unique nature of military service in the context of the public service”. It also says all recommendations by the commission or the successor body and their implementation must be consistent with national public sector wage policy.
Ictu said in its submission that it had “ major concerns” regarding this proposal.
“It is possible that, if implemented, this would significantly undermine the pay determination process in the public sector that has been in place for over 50 years. Alternatively, because of the conditions attached, it has the potential to be a disappointment for many of its advocates,” it said.
“Congress believes that the commission should recommend to Government that it permit the representative bodies in the Defence Forces – PDForra and Raco – to affiliate/associate with Congress and, thereby, become active participants in the design and detail of various national agreements as they apply to members of the Defence Forces.”
PDForra, which represents enlisted personnel, backs affiliation to Ictu, while Raco, which represents officers, does not, and supports the establishment of an independent military pay review body. Defence Force chiefs are also opposed to links between military representative associations and the trade union movement.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment told the commission it would amend the Organisation of Working Time Act to bring members of the Defence Forces within its scope. It said work was "ongoing in consultation with the Department of Defence to ensure appropriate recognition of the unique role of the Defence Forces".
Ictu said compliance with the Organisation of Working Time Act would “most likely require an increase in the size of the Defence Forces”.