THERE is nothing to attract young people into the Defence Forces, it has been warned.
The President of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) Mark Keane said the salary is so poor that young people are no longer interested in joining.
“It used to be the case that it was a career. It is only a job now. You don’t get a good pension now — it’s all gone. You used to give 21 years service and retire, not its 30 years, you retire at 50, but you don’t get your pension until you are 60.”
The basic rate for a two-star or a private, which is the first rank after training, is €448 a week before tax and soldiers are on that rate for between two and seven years before moving up to €553.
“There are no incentives for 18- to 25-year-olds to join the Defence Forces. They are being asked to take orders, live a robust lifestyle and be away from home for long periods of time and the pay does not reflect that.
“The problem is there is no premium rate of pay for 24-hour duty, days at sea, that is where we fall through the cracks. How are we going to attract someone in for that rate of pay? Then they are seeing their friends on social media, going out and it is very hard.”
Mr Keane also said the Defence Forces are competing with large multi-national companies who can offer better money and better hours as well as the gardaí, which are now recruiting and the Prison Service.
The PDFORRA President said people are applying for the Defence Forces and completing the online psychometric test, but they are not following through to the next stage which is a physical examination and medical. It has been reported that a previous recruitment drive managed to gather just 26 candidates, falling short of the 48 needed to fill a class. In another example of the difficulties recruiting, 65 potential candidates were called for a medical/fitness test, but just six turned up.
“It puts a strain on those left behind. We still have to maintain services, we still have to have ships at sea and perform the duties assigned to us, it just means your work-life balance suffers.”