Newly recruited contract soldiers have threatened mass resignations if their complaints about overwork and the terms of their employment are not sorted out by the defence ministry.
In a letter to the minister, published by Sigmalive, soldiers complained that they are working longer hours than they were contracted to, making their hourly pay very low, and suggested that the project had failed.
“It is with disappointment that we arrived at the conclusion that the institution of the 3,000 soldiers has failed miserably,” their letter said. “Many people have left and many more will follow if our demands are not accepted and what we signed for on our contracts three months ago is not restored.
“If things are not corrected gentlemen our resignations will be en masse and along with the fatigues, we will also hand over our voting booklets, the letter continued.”
The recruitment of 3,000 soldiers on a gross monthly salary of €1,127 was part of a plan to modernise the National Guard and cut military service to 14 months from two years.
The contracts, which began in November, will initially be for a year but can be renewed three times for three-year stints up to a maximum of 10 years’ service.
However, just a few months after their recruitment, contract soldiers claimed they sometimes worked 286 hours in a month, which translated into being paid €3.40 an hour.
The soldiers said they were pulling up to eight overnight duties per month, even after being promised six, which was also too much for them.
“The rest of the National Guard officers do three or four. Are we or are we not National Guard officers too Mr Minister? Or were we simply recruited to cut military service?” the letter continued.
Despite not graduating from military schools, contract soldiers said they should not be placed on a lower rank “from the moment you consider us and call us National Guard officers.”