Defence Forces recruits and apprentices will no longer be charged for their accommodation and rations under a package of measures expected to be announced today by Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe.

The Minister will announce the annual €1.5 million package of pay improvements for Defence Forces personnel when he addresses the PDFORRA conference later today.

It is understood that the increases will centre on implementation of outstanding adjudication findings - and will be backdated to 1 October 2018.

However, as yet it is unclear whether this will satisfy the pay demands of Defence Forces representative associations RACO and PDFORRA, who blame inadequate remuneration and conditions for an exodus of personnel that has seen staffing numbers fall to 10% below target.

The staff shortage is so severe, that two naval vessels are currently unable to go to sea.

Recruits and apprentices will no longer be charged for their rations and accommodation yielding a saving to such personnel of almost €44 per week.

The pay improvements will include an increase of around €50 per week for members of the Army Ranger wing.

Defence Forces cooks with relevant qualifications and experience will see a rise of €13.52, while account holders not currently in receipt of the account holder's allowance of €65.80 per week will now be eligible for it.

Meanwhile, PDFFORA, which represents over 8,000 enlisted members of the Defence Forces, has dismissed fears about its planned affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as "unjustified". 

Speaking ahead of the PDFORRA conference in Carlow, General Secretary Ger Guinan said the association remained convinced that affiliation to congress represented the best opportunity to secure advances, equality and justice for members. 

Chief-of-Staff of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett has already warned the Government that even associate affiliation by PDFORRA could jeopardise national security. 

But Mr Guinan said that despite Government submissions to that effect, the European Social Rights Committee had vindicated PDFORRA's right to associate with ICTU. 

Last month, the Executive Council of Congress agreed in principle to accept PDFORRA for associate affiliation subject to further negotiations with the Government side.

The move would require sanction by the Minister for Defence, but last week, Minister of State Paul Kehoe said he was not ruling out vetoing affiliation.

Mr Guinan said it had been PDFORRA policy to affiliate to ICTU since 2004, and that it was prepared to commit to further guarantees on specific concerns to assuage the fears of interested parties. 

He acknowledged that other bodies including the officers' representative group RACO had called for an Independent Pay Review Body, but described PDFORRA's experience with such bodies as "disappointing".

He said the continuity of what he called "flawed" processes over the years highlighted the saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. 

He also stated that PDFORRA will engage with officials in the coming weeks, prior to the commencement of the next round of National Pay talks, to see how the department wishes to proceed.