Members of the Defence Forces say they are disadvantaged by not having access to the industrial relations mechanisms of the State.

They are calling on the Government to review their representative status.

The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers is hosting a biennial delegate conference in Naas, Co Kildare, where the matter was top of the agenda.

Lieutenant Colonel Earnán Naughton, who is General Secretary of RACO, said members of the Defence Forces have been marginalised in the industrial relations arena.

He said the internal Defence Forces' conciliation and arbitration scheme is failing to progress claims on behalf of members in a reasonable timeline.

"When our members look at the results of those who have access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court, and particularly in light of all the recent side deals awarded under the auspices of the WRC and the Labour Court, they feel they have been marginalised and disadvantaged as a consequence of our representative status."

There have been issues with recruiting personnel to the Defence Forces, despite three recruitment campaigns this year.

Lt Col Naughton said many recruits leave within the first few weeks of training because they can see that the remuneration and conditions of service do not provide adequately for them and their families for the future.

This point was reiterated by Ger Guinan, General Secretary of Pdforra, who said "the career that people would have enjoyed previously is no longer the career that they can face into the future.

"Members don't have the same pension entitlements, the same working conditions or anciliary benefits that would have been associated with service in the Defence Forces previously," he added.

RACO and Pdforra have the support of garda associations, who have been promised access to the WRC and the Labour Court.

John Jacob, General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said all uniformed personnel should have access to the industrial relations machinery of the State. "They have similar issues and concerns to us that need to be adjudicated on independently outside the internal processes," he said.

The Minister for Defence announced his intention previously to review the conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. 

The review will start by the end of the year and will be guided by an independent chairperson.

Minister Paul Kehoe has forwarded the draft terms of reference of the review group to both associations for information and comment and their views are awaited.

The Report of the Working Group on Industrial Relations Structures for An Garda Síochána will be considered in the course of the review of the arrangements for the Permanent Defence Force.