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Valour (Vol. 11, No. 4)

Views and Opinions


US Army photo DRE_2089 by Major Marler

How much are Primary Reservists worth?

by Robert Unger

Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Rob Unger is a Primary Reservist and Regimental Sergeant-Major of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, an Infantry unit based in Montréal. Between 2005 and 2010, CWO Unger deployed to Afghanistan and contributed to the CF as a Class B Reservist, while also serving on a voluntary basis with his parent unit.

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Over the past 10 years, the high operational tempo of the Canadian Forces (CF) has put a strain on the institutional force. With the high number of troops either preparing to deploy on expeditionary or domestic operations, or having recently returned from operations, the Primary Reserves have ‘stepped up’ to fill in key positions vacated by deployed Regular Force officers and NCMs in headquarters, schools, and units across the country. At every level, the CF has recognized the value of the contribution of the Primary Reserves – in several venues, strategic-level senior officers and CWOs1 have stated that the CF could not have continued to function effectively without the thousands of Reservists who have filled empty Regular Force billets across Canada, while simultaneously taking on new Reserve-specific tasks, such as ‘standing up’ Territorial Battalion Groups and Arctic Response Companies on the domestic front, and developing and deploying Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) and Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) trained personnel and elements for expeditionary operations.

The increased number of Primary Reservists working effectively alongside their Regular Force counterparts has raised a recurring question: why is there still a 15 percent gap2 between Regular and Reserve Force pay? In 1996, when Reserve pay was revised and increased to its present level, there were several elements that were used to justify the difference between the two types of pay:3

  • Primary Reservists were not subject to the same level of liability as Regular Force members;
  • Primary Reservists were not required to meet the minimum standards for Universality of Service;
  • Primary Reservists did not pay into a pension fund;
  • Regular Force members face frequent separation from family; and
  • Primary Reservists are not subject to being posted.

Most of these conditions no longer apply. The concept of unlimited liability applies equally to all CF members,4 Regular and Reserve, as evidenced by the fact that both Regular and Reserve Force members, regrettably, have suffered serious injury or death in Afghanistan, and during other operations. Since 2006, DAOD 5023-15 has clearly stated that Primary Reservists are required to meet the minimum operational standards in order to be ready for operational duty at all times, including meeting their environmental fitness requirement, annual personal weapon qualification, and a long list of other requirements. Since 1 March 2007, Primary Reservists have been paying into the Canadian Forces Pension Plan,6 and those Reservists serving on Class B and C service for over 60 months join Part 1 of the CF Pension Plan, the same plan as Regular Force members.7 Reservists, like Regular Force members, are often separated from their families. Reservists attend school or civilian employment during week days, and then don their uniforms to attend military training during the evening, weekends, and during the summer when away on taskings.8 Finally, an increasing trend has seen Reservists accepting to be posted,9 as was offered in 2010 and 2011 to Reservists who applied for positions with the Influence Activities Task Force based in Kingston.10 At the same time, Regular Force members are requesting to be posted to units within the same geographical area, or are refusing postings, citing compassionate reasons (family stability, children in school, spouse’s career, single parent issues, and proximity to relatives) for preferring not to move as frequently as was the practice in the past.

If the majority of the reasons for the pay gap are no longer valid, why does the gap continue to persist? A document entitled “Comparison of Military or X-factors between Canada, Commonwealth Countries and the US” lists several of the above components that were used to justify the Regular-Reserve Force pay gap during the 1996 pay review, and provides a valuation for each. For example, Member Liability, which includes Personal Liability/Risk to Life and Limb, Subjected to strict code of military discipline and Regimented Service Life, is assessed as being worth 3 percent of CF pay; Turbulence to Family and Member, which includes Postings, Frequent Moves, and Severing Social Contacts, is assessed as being worth 2 percent; Frequent Separation from Family is assessed as being worth 2.5 percent. The document also lists an Overtime Valuation, assessed at 6 percent for NCMs, and 4 percent for General Service Officers, and Acting Pay is assessed at 0.5 percent. Ask any Class A Reservist, and he/ she will tell you that they spend a lot of unpaid time at home getting prepared for their military duty, whether it is maintaining fitness on their own time in order to meet the requirements of Universality of Service, contacting their subordinates to collect or pass on information, or preparing training. Another important consideration with regards to the overtime valuation amount is the high number of Class B Reservists who do double duty by continuing to volunteer their services with their parent unit, and receive no compensation for their time.

Assuming that all accept that the requirement to be posted (valued at 2 percent) is still an element that clearly differentiates the Regular Force from the Primary Reserve, but that all other above mentioned factors are equally applicable to Regular and Reserve Force members, it seems reasonable that Reserve pay should be re-evaluated and increased to 98 percent of that of their Regular Force counterparts. The majority of Primary Reservists are Class A, or part-time soldiers, so those who might argue that a Reservist should not be earning the same pay as a Regular Force member must remember that Reservists would earn a pro-rated amount of Regular Force pay, based upon the actual number of days worked. For example, a Regular Force Sergeant Basic earns $61,704 per year; an Army Reserve Force Sergeant Basic earning 98 percent of Regular Force pay, and who works the programmed 37.5 days of Reserve training, would earn $6,212 per year.11 Currently, that same Reserve Sergeant earns $5388 annually.12

As the Afghanistan campaign has shown, Reservists have proven that they can fight, bleed, and die like their Regular Force counterparts. Those Reservists who chose instead to support efforts on the home front have also proven their worth by helping the CF ‘grow’ the force, conduct and sustain operations, and move key CF initiatives forward. As the CF deploys in its new role in Afghanistan and the majority of the troops return home to rest, refit, and prepare for the next expeditionary mission, Primary Reservists will continue to prepare for their own responsibilities of responding along the domestic line of operation in accordance with the Canada First Defence Policy, while also being prepared to augment Regular Force units and formations on expeditionary operations when called upon to do so. Have Reservists not proven that they are a valued CF resource worthy of similar compensation?


DND photo IS2011-0006-57


  1. Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie is quoted in a 29 March 2011 Ottawa Citizen article by David Pratt, viewed at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/decision-canada/thinking+Reserves/4519009/story.html ,as saying: "The Army could not have done what it did in Afghanistan without the Reserve. We would have crashed and burned. The country owes them a huge debt of gratitude." This message is also repeated during the Command Chiefs Forum on every Advanced Leadership and Senior Leadership course conducted at the NCM Professional Development Centre in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

  2. Canadian Forces Rates of Pay – Regular and Reserve, as viewed at http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dgcb-dgras/ps/pay-sol/pr-sol/index-eng.asp.

  3. The author was unable to find documentary evidence of this. However, Major Benoit Mainville, SO2 Land Force Reserve Restructure within the Land Staff at the time this decision was taken, confirmed these were some of the reasons used to justify the gap between Regular and Reserve pay.

  4. A-PA-005-000/AP-001 Duty with Honour: the Profession of Arms in Canada, 2009, Chapter 2, Section 2 reads: “Unlimited liability is a concept derived strictly from a professional understanding of the military function. As such, all [CF] members accept and understand that they are subject to being lawfully ordered into harm’s way under conditions that could lead to the loss of their lives.” (Author’s italics). Also discussed in B-GJ-005-000/FP-001 CFJP 01 Canadian Forces Joint Publication: Canadian Military Doctrine, Chapter 4, Article 0414, Sub-paragraph a.

  5. DAOD 5023-1, Minimum Operational Standards Related to Universality of Service, as viewed at http://admfincs.mil.ca/admfincs/subjects/daod/5023/1_e.asp.

  6. Canadian Forces Pension, as viewed at http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dgcb-dgras/ps/pen/index-eng.asp.

  7. Canadian Forces Superannuation Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-17).

  8. According to the Compensation Benefits Instructions, Reserve Force Members are entitled to all core allowances, which include Aircrew Allowance, Land Duty Allowance, Sea Duty Allowance, JTF2 Allowance Special Operations Allowance, and Temporary Duty Travel Allowance, and each of these allowances has a Casual variant. Therefore, it stands to reason that Reserve Force members are subject to separation from family when on duty.

  9. Compensation Benefits Instruction 205.45(5) defines the entitlement for Post Living Differential for Reserve Force members.

  10. For example, see REO: O-4550 - IATF Trainer & Mentor-CIMIC Instructor Position 271064, as viewed at http://lfdts.kingston.mil.ca/reo-oer/details-renseignements.aspx?positionnumber=O-4550 . Accessed on 14 April 2011. Para 5.d. states that a ‘cost move’ will be considered for members applying for this position.

  11. Regular Force Sergeant Basic monthly pay $5,142 x 12 months = $61,704 ÷ 365 = $169.05 per day x 98% = $165.67 per day (proposed new Reserve Force Sergeant Basic daily rate) x 37.5 training days = $6,212.

  12. Reserve Force Sergeant Basic daily rate $143.70 x 37.5


DND Photo IS2011-0006-02[1]


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