Soldiers Association

Should the Army have a staff association?

  • Good idea

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  • Bad idea

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  • Maybe

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  • Don't know

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  • Total voters


In another thread, Vegetius once again raises the issue of whether there should be some kind of staff association for military personnel, along the lines, presumably, of the Police Federation. My understanding is that a 'Trade Union' would be illegal, and probably undesirable anyway, but an apolitical staff association might not. Obvious benefits which might come from such a body include: legal and medical insurance and support for soldiers, as an alternative to relying on 'the system'; the ability to commission research into issues which affect soldiers and their families and to present these to the Army Council/MOD etc; errr... other stuff along similar lines.

What do we think? What are the benefits and disbenefits?
Is there anyway that it could be set up as an annex to an already existing organisation? RBL, ABF...

That way, not only would you gain from already having experienced staff, you're less likely to have people think that you are setting up a union.
I think an association for military personnel is an excellent idea. Many military nurses are members of the Royal College of Nursing, a trade union dressed up as a professional body, and many other personnel belong to other associations such as the GMC, GDC, IOM and so on. All of these exist to look after the interests of those following a particular occupation, whether in the military or not. Why not an association specifically for people in the military? There is certainly room for an organisation for service personnel to turn to which is not paid for or sponsored by MoD.

Representing the views of serving personnel would clearly be a key role from which all would benefit; the provision of expert advice on a variety of subjects would also be an important function,and would be an attractive incentive to subscribe. Some existing organisations already provide services in some areas - RBL's claims service springs to mind, but there are still many areas where there are gaps in provision.

In terms of the management, I think it important to avoid the situation which pertains in so many service-based organisations and that is a preponderance of retired senior officers. There should be some, but I would suggest, say, one of each service as patrons, with the board made up of a mixture of ranks. The make-up of the permanent staff should also not favour any particular rank level, service, branch or corps.
Any such association, to succeed, would need to:

(A) Be clear that it would never seek nor promote the idea that a local commander's authority should be undermined; enshrine that principle in the association's constitution; seek to work constructively with the army and MOD (etc). The association supports the organisation, not weakens it.

(B) Provide a "golden thread" that joins up all the other formal and informal organisations that exist to provide welfare and pastoral support for service personnel and a forum for their specific concerns.

(C) Have a structure to represent the different ranks of members and their professional concerns (the Pol Fed does this, it works very well as a Sergeant's concerns are often very different from a Chief Inspector's).

(D) Provide a "think tank" function by funding independent review and study into topical issues from the perspective of the serviceman or woman (for example, is the operational SNCOs perspective on, say, bullying, being properly put? Why not have respected third parties from other bodies working with SNCOs from their part of the association to put forward their POV to the hierarchy?). To provide a fresh PR mechanism for service personnel outside of the MOD/ GIS but (again) working with it.

(E) Provide robust and professional counselling and legal support for service personnel who find themselves charged with criminal offences (again, not impinging on the power of COs to administer unit-level justice), working with unit welfare staff and taking up the slack where it exists.

If such an association was transparent, openly engaging with the army and MOD, fully supportive of the organisation's core mission and with clearly delineated lines of responsibility then it could be a very good thing indeed. The risk is creating an ersatz Trade Union full of barrack-room lawyers who throw the baby out with the bathwater, raising the hackles of the general staff. From the sort of people I've met working in areas of welfare and charity supporting HM Forces, I'm pretty sure you could avoid that.



PDFORRA is the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association. It is a statutory body set up under the 1990 Defence Amendment Act and Defence Force Regulation (DFR ) S6. Its purpose is to represent and pursue the interests of enlisted personnel serving in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, on specified matters regarding their pay and certain conditions of service.

All enlisted personnel of the Permanent Defence Force are entitled to become members of the Association. There are currently over 8,000 members.

Membership Fee's
There is a subscription fee set by Annual Delegate Conference each year. Currently the subscription fee for a member is .65% of line pay. That is, pay less all allowances.

The Committee System
There are committees set up at three levels of the Association: National, Regional and District. The principal aim of committees is to resolve problems that come within the scope of representation - at the lowest possible level. If issues cannot be resolved at any level it may be passed up to the next level for resolution. Members in the first instance should bring matters to the attention of their local District representative i.e., any member of their District Committee. There is a District Committee in every Barracks, Post and Ship.

Consultative Status
Consultative Status is the right that has been established under legislation, regulations and the constitution whereby the elected representatives of enlisted personnel can raise issues directly with management at the various levels of the Defence Forces.

Who Recognises PDFORRA?
PDFORRA is recognised by all Government and State agencies and other organisations. The status of the association is established under the Defence (Amendment) Act of 1990.

Connections with other Organisations
PDFORRA has dealings with many outside organisations and is affiliated to the Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations ( ICPSA) and to EUROMIL, the European Organisation of Military Associations. Membership and affiliation to these associations was endorsed by the Minister for Defence. The Association has a nation-wide infrastructure in order to provide a means for the presentation and resolution of claims that would arise in the workplace on matters related to pay and conditions. PDFORRA also has working relationships with the Departments of Defence, Finance and other Government agencies.
One point, wouldn't the spokes person need to not be a serving member of the armed forces? To avoid falling foul of the QR about not speaking to the press?

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