Armed forces poised to get union to fight for pay rises and welfare

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Military personnel could get a union to fight for pay rises under an SNP proposal to create a representative body for the armed forces.

The party said it would examine international examples of where armed forces have been unionised, including Australia, where the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) holds talks with the government about pay and pensions for troops.

A private members’ bill has been put forward by SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes that would set up a new body along the lines of the Police Federation to represent armed forces personnel on a range of welfare issues.

However, soldiers would not be given the right to take industrial action. The bill is due to be heard in the House of Commons in November.

Military personnel have had pay increases capped at 1 per cent along with other public sector workers since the Conservative government came to power in 2010. However, despite the policy being scrapped by Theresa May and NHS workers being offered the first above-inflation pay increases in almost a decade, a decision on soldiers’ pay has been pushed back.

The armed forces pay review body, which makes recommendations on pay increases for troops, has said there should be a 3 per cent increase, a call backed by armed forces minister Tobias Ellwood.

The DFWA last year helped secure a 2 per cent per year increase for Australian armed forces personnel despite ongoing pay freezes in the rest of the public sector, after arguing that the pay-setting scheme was “failing our service men and women”.

Speaking on Armed Forces Day, Docherty-Hughes told Scotland on Sunday: “We’ll be spending our time over the summer speaking to those with experience of similar organisations, in the UK and abroad, to understand what best practice exists, and what would fit best in our own context.

“There are a variety of models, from the Danish one which sees officers and ranks have their own sections within normal trades unions, to the Australian model which sees their Defence Force Welfare Association as a recognised interlocutor on pay negotiations.

“There is also obviously an excellent network of armed forces charities and organisations across these islands which have a superb insight into the challenges facing serving personnel: the aim of this bill is to ensure that their work is amplified by all members of the armed forces speaking with one strong voice.”