News & Media

Sea Going Service Commitment, while welcome will not address retention crisis in the Naval Service

20 October 2020

Statement by Senator Mark Wall
Spokesperson on Defence, Tourism and Sport
Mark Wall
  • Minister needs to increase Patrol Duty Allowance
  • Proposed payment discriminates against young sailors


Labour Defence Spokesperson, Senator Mark Wall says the announcement by the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney of a proposed “Sea Going Service Commitment” while a step in the right direction, will not address the retention crisis in the naval service


Senator Wall is calling on the Minister to increase the current Patrol Duty Allowance to ensure that new recruits are encouraged to continue their service and remain in the Navy.

Senator Wall said: 

“While the announcement of a proposed “sea going service commitment scheme” is welcome in its aspiration to address the retention crisis in our naval service. The scheme is fundamentally flawed in its design and proposed operation and we would encourage the minister to re-examine the problem and use the additional funding to immediately increase Patrol Duty Allowance for all sailors.

The Naval Service is recruiting for new entrants this month. The proposed scheme does nothing to encourage these new entrants to stay because they will not see any benefit from the proposed scheme for approximately three years and will not see the full benefit for seven years.


“After initial training young sailors are performing many similar duties to experienced sailors and this proposed scheme will lead to an inequality in pay between those performing similar duties at sea and instead discriminates against the young sailors that the Government needs to encourage to stay.

Have we learned nothing from previous discrimination against new entrants to the public sector? Internal naval service analysis has shown that the service cannot retain young able sailors across all branches. Young sailors are leaving once posted to sea as their allowances are not sufficient, and many will never complete a second rotation at sea. If we do not compensate new young sailors in their first rotations to sea, we will lose them.


“The proposed scheme will also take several months if not longer to implement. Once implemented it will take at least another six months for experienced sailors to see any benefit from it and another four years for them to get the full benefit. Many in the Defence Forces who are struggling from paycheque to paycheque will not be able to wait that long to see tangible benefits and will vote with their feet.


“The Naval Service has always benefited significantly from the willingness of reservists to go to sea. The proposed scheme does nothing to reward this loyalty or to incentivise this commitment in the future. An increase in PDA will however immediately incentivise sailors of all ranks, permanent and reserve to go to sea.


“The Labour Party will encourage and support the minister if he wishes to bring forward a retention bonus to keep experienced sailors in the service. We would welcome targeted action like initiatives already proving successful in the Air Corps however any sort of retention bonus for experienced personnel must be accompanied by initiatives that will have an immediate impact and that will not discriminate against young sailors and encourage them to stay. We feel that the proposed sea going incentive scheme in its current form needs work and will not stop the exodus of personnel from the service in the short term.