Navy reserve called to fill posts amid crisis

Sean O’Riordan, Defence Correspondent

The Naval Service has contacted members of its reserve in an attempt to lure them into full-time service to fill posts left vacant due to a major crisis in retention and recruitment.

File photo.

Reserves have been used in recent months to ensure adequate manpower levels when ships go to sea, but this latest move is seen as another indication that the Government still is not addressing the root cause of the manpower crisis: Poor pay and conditions.

The Defence Forces press office said it currently has 234 reservists who were “recently contacted to ascertain their interest in joining as a permanent member in the future”.

PDForra, which represents enlisted personnel, expressed its surprise at the move.

“This is just another window-dressing exercise,” said PDForra president Mark Keane. “The financial rewards will not match what these people already have in the private sector, so I’d be surprised if they get many expressions of interest.

The Department of Defence needs to bite the bullet and address the real issues of why people are leaving in droves and why they can’t get enough new recruits in.

PDForra general secretary Gerard Guinan said he was also taken aback by the move, as those in the reserve who wanted to join the permanent staff were well aware of how they could do this through the Defence Forces general recruitment schemes.

“They’re just clutching at straws,” he said. “They’d [the department] be better placed to focus on the retention of personnel by offering decent terms of employment.”

Defence Forces members are the worst-paid public servants. Last August, the minister of state with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe, ordered senior commanders to try to tempt former officers back into service to counter the continuing brain drain in their ranks.

In particular, he wanted to plug gaps which have appeared in specialist areas in the Army, Naval Service, and Air Corps by offering former officers three-year contracts to rejoin.

It has yet to be seen if the move was successful, and some people doubt that former pilots would ever be tempted to sign up again as they’re paid far better in the private sector.

For example, an Air Corps commandant with 15 years’ experience would expect to earn just over €85,000 a year. However, a pilot with similar experience working for a commercial airline such as Ryanair could expect an annual pay packet of between €150,000 and €200,000 a year.

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