Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Union opposing allowances cuts

The general secretary of the Defence Forces representative body PDForra has said his members should be exempt from any cuts

Members of the Defence Forces have warned it is unacceptable for allowances paid in lieu of overtime to be assessed for cuts.

As the Government struggles to slash the expensive public-sector benefits system, rank and file Army, Navy and Air Corps staff denied they are earning an additional premium. The target for cutting the expenses bill for this year was 75 million euro but only 3.5 million euro was achieved.

Gerry Rooney, general secretary of the Defence Forces representative body PDForra, said his members should be exempt from any cuts.

"Soldiers, sailors and aircrew of the Permanent Defence Forces are paid a limited number of allowances as part of a historic system, which was essentially designed to block the seeking and payment of overtime and premium payments," he said. "It is quite remarkable and totally unacceptable that these allowances could now be reviewed or abolished."

At the opening of the PDForra conference, the organisation claimed they are the only uniformed members of the public sector barred from claiming overtime.

Salary top-ups and allowances were introduced for soldiers, sailors and the air force in the 1970s. The money was designed to cover long and irregular working hours.

While the Government has hit a brick wall with the expenses reform, Congress leader David Begg has admitted that some of the schemes should be looked at. Teachers, however, have already insisted their benefits system has always been considered core pay in return for additional qualifications and duties.

The Public Accounts Committee has threatened to intervene in the issue and publicise the exact rate and costs of allowances.

PDForra insist their allowances are protected by the Croke Park agreement.

"Allowances paid to members of the Defence Forces are properly part of core pay and should continue to be paid on this basis," Mr Rooney said. "We will be taking a very strong line on this issue, as many of our members are now in receipt of up to 20% less income that had been received previously."

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