ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE,
MR. MICHAEL SMITH T.D.,
TO THE 9th ANNUAL DELEGATE CONFERENCE
OF THE PERMANENT DEFENCE FORCE
GALWAY 11 OCTOBER 2000
Mr. President, General Secretary, Chief of Staff, Secretary General of the Department of Defence, distinguished guests and assembled delegates, I would like to thank PDFORRA for inviting me to address your Association's ninth Annual Delegate Conference today. My presence here gives me a further opportunity to express my support for the representative process. PDFORRA, as the voice of enlisted personnel of the Permanent Defence Force, is continuing to play an integral and valuable part within that process.
The past twelve months have been a very busy time for both PDFORRA and the Department of Defence with some significant developments on the Conciliation and Arbitration front. First and foremost, I was very pleased to hear that your Association signed up to the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness last week. On my own and the Government's behalf I would like to warmly welcome PDFORRA into this new dimension of pay and partnership. PPF is an exciting and challenging programme, one that offers a range of opportunities both to employers and employees.
The first phase of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness came into effect on 1 October last and will increase pay by 5.5%. On the same date, an additional 3% increase for early settlers came into effect. These increases will be followed by a further 5.5% increase in October next year and, subject to certain progress on modernisation, a further 4% in October 2002. These payments, combined with the tax reductions announced in Budget 2000, will mean that there will be a significant increase in take-home pay for your members this year with the prospect of further real increases over the life of the Programme.
While the Government has had to revise upwards its forecast for inflation since the negotiation of the PPF there is still no doubt that the continuation of tax reductions and direct pay increases will still benefit people ahead of inflation.
There has been some pressure on the PPF terms in recent weeks from the trade unions because of the higher level of inflation. However, the Government has made clear that we must avoid entering a spiral of pay claims chasing inflation. There can be no question of renegotiating the pay agreement. Discussions are taking place between the Government and the social partners in the context of the coming December Budget. In any event, it is important for all to remember that it is the totality of the tax and pay benefits that must be considered in looking at the benefits of PPF.
The Partnership process has been a great success for over a decade. National agreements have generated gains in real take-home pay since they began in l987. For example, the tax and pay elements of the Partnership 2000 agreement increased average real incomes by some 15%. But Partnership has helped the wider Irish family. Unemployment at 3.8%, did we ever think we would see it. 290,000 additional jobs created in this country since 1997. 48,000 people living and working outside Ireland two years ago are now living and working inside Ireland. Every member of the Defence Forces is naturally interested in their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters obtaining gainful full-time employment in this country.
As well as the pay and tax changes contained in PPF, it also contains an innovation in public service pay - that is the establishment of the Public Service Benchmarking Body. This Body, which has already been set up, will examine the pay of public sector employees and compare them to the private sector. The Body, under the Chairmanship of The Honourable Mr. Justice Quirke, has been asked to report by end June 2002. This is a very tight deadline for a complex task but it should bring some clarity to the whole question of setting levels of public service pay in the context of the private sector.
The Benchmarking Body's recommendations will be grounded in a coherent and broadly-based comparison between public service jobs with jobs and pay rates across the economy.
It will, therefore, be required to examine existing roles, duties and responsibilities of jobs in the public service and across the economy, and not just the pay rates applicable in the private sector to jobs with similar titles to, and superficially similar roles as, jobs in the public service.
As an integral part of the Benchmarking Body's examination they will arrange in-depth and comprehensive research, examination and analysis of pay levels across the private sector taking into account overall public service and private sector pay levels as well as the pay rates of particular occupational groups. They will also consider the way reward systems are structured in the private sector and examine the overall pattern of pay rates in the private sector and employments across a range of type, size or sector.
1. The results of the role review and pay research will take into account differences between the public service and the private sector, and between the various public service groups, in working conditions, the organisation of work, perquisites, conditions of employment and other relevant benefits including security of tenure and superannuation benefits.
In addition, the Benchmarking Body will have regard to the need to recruit and retain staff, the need to ensure ongoing modernisation across the public service, the need to have regard to equity between the public and private sectors and to underpin the country's competitiveness and continued sustainable economic prosperity.
One of the groups to be examined will be the members of the Defence Forces. There are always difficulties with trying to compare occupations such as the Defence Forces with the private sector and even within the public service. However, the benchmarking body represents a genuine attempt to set the pay for the public service in the context of the whole economy. This forum will provide your Association with an opportunity to make your case in relation to pay levels of your members. The Body is an open independent way of examining the thorny issue of setting appropriate pay levels and is, I hope, a step forward in the way we determine pay in the public service. I am sure you will be active in presenting your case.
I believe that only by operating within the context of the national programmes and using the Benchmarking process can we continue to make progress in the future. The national programmes are a way of reaching a consensus on how to continue to develop our country and we should continue to avail of the process in the coming years.
I am confident that, with the experienced and skilled hand of John Lucey on the tiller, your Association will play a full part in the new process. With this signing up to PPF and your involvement in the parallel talks process I truly believe that, a short ten years after being set up, PDFORRA has truly come of age on the national Industrial Relations front. And in this context I want to pay a warm tribute to your General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary for the constructive and forward looking way in which they have represented you, their members, in the past 12 months. It is very encouraging to note that both sides have availed of the opportunity to conduct their business in a positive and open-minded manner, through constructive dialogue and discussion.
I would also like to thank the staff of the civil and military C&A sections of my Department and their counterparts in the Departments of Finance and Taoiseach for their efforts in ensuring that this agreement was concluded.
Now that it has been concluded I suppose the main issue of interest to you is "when will the money be paid". I am pleased to let you know that the staff of the Finance Branch of the Department, down the road in Renmore, have assured me that the new pay rates will be paid on the 1st November next. I am aware that your Association and the Department are also finalising some outstanding items under the P2000 agreement. I understand that these will be completed in the near future and the arrears paid before the end of the year.
The introduction of Partnership arrangements in the Defence Forces presents a unique challenge for all of us. It is essential that we get partnership right, and if this means making haste slowly, then this is a small price to pay for a long term advantage. And I would like to reassure you all that, contrary to what some may believe, there have not been any unnecessary delays to the process of developing partnership structures in the Defence Forces. Some training has already taken place, further seminars and information briefings have been arranged for early November, and, all going well, the National Partnership Forum and Steering Committee will be in place at the end of this year. This will then rapidly be followed by the setting up of partnership committees at local level.
Partnership is not intended to replace, or be a substitute for, the Conciliation Council of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme, or for other existing committee arrangements within the Defence Forces. The Partnership process will complement the existing mechanisms and it is envisaged that many issues of a non-substantive or local nature will be successfully resolved through the partnership process. It is anticipated also that as the partnership process develops, it will progressively improve the understanding of, and approach to, the representative process.
The Government is an enthusiastic supporter of the Partnership concept and I myself regard it as being the only real way to do business in the future. I look forward to continuing to deal with your Association's representatives in a manner which will enable us all achieve our ultimate goal - a system of representation in the Defence Forces that works for PDFORRA, for the Defence Forces and for the Department of Defence.
I am sure you will all agree with me that the partnership approach represents a radically new approach to doing business in the military world, and it is only to be expected that some teething troubles will arise. However, I have full confidence in the capabilities of all the stakeholders, including military management, to rise to this challenge as they have to so many other challenges in the past.
Earlier this year the Government adopted my proposals for the first ever White Paper on Defence which was published on 28 February last. In the White Paper the Government set out the national strategy for defence for the period up to 2010, based on the evolving national and international security environment. A major objective of this strategy is the reshaping of our Defence Forces and the reallocation of resources to new equipment for the overseas peace support role in the context of modern peacekeeping and crisis management.
Much has been made of the submission by the Department of Finance to the White Paper process. This was one of a large number of such submissions. The Government, having considered all submissions, made its decision which are effected in the White Paper. The debate about the size of the Defence forces is over for the life of this White Paper and from now on the Defence Forces can plan for the future secure in the knowledge that no further reductions will be proposed.
The White Paper includes an investment programme for the Defence Forces involving an additional £250 million in new equipment and infrastructure. This equipment will be of considerable benefit to the Army in carrying out its roles at home and overseas. Investment of this scale confirms that the White Paper represents a serious response by the Government to a sustained case advanced by the military authorities to develop the Defence Forces into a world-class military organisation.
Our commitment to collective security is pursued through the United Nations which has the primary role to play in the maintenance of international peace and security. Ireland has a long and proud record of participation in UN/International peacekeeping and this is to continue with involvement in international missions in the cause of world peace. With regard to overseas peace support operations generally, all operations will from Ireland's perspective be UN mandated or authorised.
You will have heard that yesterday Ireland was given the singular honour of a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Taoiseach said last night that one of the cornerstones of our campaign to secure the seat has been Ireland's distinctive role in UN peacekeeping. Today, on behalf of the Government, I want to again express my appreciation of the role that the Defence Forces have played in UN service over the years, all of which has helped our country to secure this prestigious place in international affairs.
Following the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty, the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy will encompass a new role for the EU in the fields of peacekeeping and the prevention and management of international crises through the inclusion in the Treaty of the Petersberg Tasks. Petersberg Tasks include humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping tasks. EU Member States (including Ireland) who are not members of any military alliance will be entitled to participate in such missions on a case by case basis, if they so wish. The EU member states have set an agreed, voluntary target, known as a Headline Goal, in order to put in place the capabilities required to undertake Petersberg Tasks by 2003. The question of what contribution Ireland can make will be considered in the context of this process, taking account of the voluntary nature of peacekeeping tasks, current overseas commitments and security requirements at home.
Ireland joined Partnership for Peace (PfP) on 1 December 1999. PfP is of importance in facilitating planning and co-operation for Petersberg Tasks. Our proposed participation in PfP activities is set out in the Presentation Document which was presented to the NATO Secretariat upon signature by Ireland of the PfP Framework Document on 1 December 1999. In consultation with the NATO Secretariat, an Individual Partnership Programme is being developed which will cover a two year period initially and which will set out the level and extent of proposed participation in such areas as co-operation in peacekeeping principles, doctrine, training and exercises and inter-operability in peacekeeping operations. This two year programme will be developed having regard to the State's own requirements in relation to the roles of the Defence Forces as set out in the White Paper and taking account of resource implications.
I am pleased to be able to report to you that implementation of the White Paper is progressing well on other fronts too. The Chief of Staff is currently preparing a plan to restructure the PDF in accordance with the Government's decision on overall numbers. That plan will help us to achieve the following broad goals:-
to provide a light infantry based force with an appropriate level of all-arms capability;
to provide sufficient forces and capabilities to meet needs at home and to make a significant contribution abroad;
to put in place a more cohesive and better equipped force than exists at present; and,
to provide significant additional resources for equipment and infrastructure broadly within the existing level of financial allocation.
It is important that we put the new organisation in place and move ahead with the modernisation of the Defence Forces. It is equally important that the new organisation offers rewarding and challenging careers to Defence Forces personnel both for its own sake but also to make a career in the Defence Forces more attractive to young people, particularly school-leavers.
The White Paper recognises the importance of the career dimension and provides for the preparation of an updated and very comprehensive Defence Forces Personnel Management Plan to address this and related issues. The Chief of Staff is currently drafting a plan and I hope to have this by the end of the year. The Plan will include a continuation of the policy of regular recruitment which is now in place, in order to achieve an improved age profile in the Permanent Defence Force. A campaign to recruit an additional 750 personnel began in April and I helped to re-launch the campaign last month.
The Association has raised a very novel and interesting proposal in relation to the treatment of minorities. It goes without saying that Irish society is going to have to become far more open and inclusive. There are many rules, attitudes and assumptions which will have to be challenged as part of this process. In that context perhaps it is time that we review the criteria for enlistment. I will approach the review with a completely open mind concerned to ensure that whatever rules need to be applied will reflect the realities of the 21st century. However, I would caution that a rigorous selection procedure will always be required and, as the Association has accepted, security clearance procedures will be retained.
Air Corps and Naval Service Implementation Plans
Arising from the earlier special study on the Air Corps and Naval Service undertaken by Price Waterhouse Consultants, and reflecting the policy parameters laid down in the White Paper, Air Corps and Naval Service managements each submitted a draft Implementation Plan to me. I have approved the Naval Service Implementation Plan which is now ready for implementation.
I have also approved in principle the proposed new organisation set out in the Air Corps Plan and other elements of this Plan are under active consideration. The necessary work on amending the relevant regulations is almost complete.
As I have stated at your association's conferences in the past, and on many other occasions, I regard it as essential that the Representative Associations be consulted fully, and in a spirit of partnership, before the plans that I have mentioned are finalised and implemented.
For many years, there has been a limited amount of investment in new equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces. I am glad to have been able to reverse that trend.
I was particularly pleased earlier this year to be able to announce an unprecedented additional £250 million investment programme in new equipment and infrastructure. This will be funded from payroll savings and from the sales of property surplus to requirements and will include the following:-
About £55 million over three years on the purchase of new aircraft for the Air Corps, with special priority being given to the procurement of new medium range helicopters;
Over £20 million for a second new state of the art fishery patrol vessel for the Naval Service, similar to L.E. Róisín which was commissioned in 1999;
About £25 million over three years for investment in Light Infantry Tactical Vehicles, modern effective anti-armour weapons, night vision equipment, engineer equipment and medical field equipment.
All the foregoing are additional to:-
£40 million for a fleet of new Armoured Personnel Carriers for the Army. The first of these will be handed over by the end of 2000, with deliveries completed by early 2002;
Some £22 million for a state of the art offshore patrol vessel, the L.E. Róisín, which was delivered in 1999;
Over £10.5 million for new tactical VHF radios;
Over £6.5 million on specialist transport cargo vehicles (deployed to KFOR) and on new troop carrying vehicles such as 4 x 4's, and ¾ ton trucks.
Meanwhile, over £100 million is being committed to the development of buildings and other infrastructure at military installations, principally in the Curragh and Collins Barracks, Cork, but also at many other installations where accommodation is being radically improved.
This scale of investment has been made possible by our success in identifying ways in which to achieve the necessary rebalancing of resource allocation within the Defence budget and our determination that resources freed-up within the budget should be retained for the benefit of the Defence Forces and those who serve in them.
I believe that we have created the foundations for a bright future for the Defence organisation. The challenge now is to build on that foundation, together, and to create what the White Paper aspires to: a world-class defence organisation.
We have been provided with a major and unprecedented boost for the Defence Forces in the form of an investment programme second to none. Let us make it a success. Let everyone know that it is a success. Show the Government and the taxpayer that the Defence Forces provide real value for money, real value for the resources we receive. I know that we face a continuing challenge in providing investment funding for the future. That future is best secured by emphasising our successes and achievements.
I want finally to turn to an issue which I know is close to your members hearts, the review of the revised Grievance Procedures. As you know, in our 1997 election manifesto, Fianna Fáil committed itself to the introduction of an Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. On coming into office later that year we found that a Complaints Inquiry Officer system had been introduced in 1996. The operation of the system was due to be reviewed in 1999. Against that background it would have been premature to introduce an Ombudsman. In entering into the review, your officials made it clear that despite the proven effectiveness of the system in resolving complaints, you were unhappy with the CIO system, particularly in relation to the time taken to conclude enquiries and the independence of the Office of Complaints Inquiry Officer. Arising from this I believe that the time is now ripe to proceed with the establishment of a legislative Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. In establishing this office we must ensure that we provide a credible grievance system which is fair to all members of the Defence Forces while at the same time safeguarding the operational flexibility of the Defence Forces.
Discussions will take place with both Associations over the coming weeks to define the powers and scope of a military Ombudsman that will meet the needs of the various parties. This process is also likely to result in an updating of the existing internal complaint procedures. I can assure you now that as soon as those discussions are completed I will make the necessary arrangements to give effect to the Ombudsman proposal.
I wish you every success with your deliberations and enjoy the rest of your conference.