Tuesday 24 April 2018

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Cork Independent


‘We want change’

Thursday, 20th April, 2017 1:01am

Loved ones of those working for the Irish Defence Forces will protest outside Collins Barracks and the naval base in Haulbowline today.

A group called Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) is appealing for public solidarity and support at its first national peaceful protest taking place from 12-2pm today at every military barracks in the country – and the naval base.

WPDF is holding these demonstrations to highlight what it describes as “terrible pay and conditions” that their loved ones have to endure on a daily basis. The group was established because the Defence Forces are not afforded the same access as other public sector workers.

It says that family home repossession and borrowing from money lenders is a reality for some of Defence Forces workers.

A spokesperson for the group said: “They are not entitled to engage in protest, strike or industrial action in relation to all of the cuts and the deterioration of conditions that they, and indeed their families, have experienced. “As a result, we endeavour to act on their behalf as did our predecessor National Army Spouses Association (NASA), who must be recognised for their great work. “We are appealing for public solidarity and support. We want change, action and results. Not platitudes.”

The group envisage being the voice of their spouses and partners and endeavour to bring about change through lobbying and protesting during 2017. “This is to ensure that they are not only afforded recognition for the work they do but also given the basic respect that they should be entitled to,” added the WPDF spokesperson. As of going to print, the Department of Defence was unavailable for comment.

However, at the beginning of April, during Private Members’ Business in Dáil Éireann, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, TD said during a motion on defence: “I also want to recognise that the Chief of Staff has raised with me the concerns brought to him by some serving members. I have reassured him that future remuneration of Defence Forces personnel will be dealt with within this process.”

WPDF has several points of concern and issues it wants highlighted, including the fact that the Irish Defence Forces is the only sector of public service as a whole that do not have access to the Labour Court. It said that more than 20 per cent of enlisted personnel are in receipt of Family Income Supplement.

“No person who volunteers to serve their country should be allowed to have wages so poor that they need social welfare support. This is a scandal of epic proportions and we feel the true details are not realised,” said the spokesperson.

Restructuring of the Defence Forces from three to two brigades has led to a number of soldiers having to move barracks. This has meant additional and extensive travel costs on families.

WPDF says that €20 is paid to workers for doing 24-hour duty, which is 16 hours of overtime. “Many members have missed payments on bills as a result of cuts so cannot access loans due to credit rating being impacted, so money lenders are a reality. Families are losing houses due to repossession,” said the spokesperson.

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