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Sunday 28 May 2017

Gardaí call off strike at the last minute

Fresh offer of €3,600 a year convinces GRA and AGSI to defer action

Ciarán O’Neill and Pat Ennis of the GRA announce a deferral of the Garda strike at Phibsboro tower in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron
Ciarán O’Neill and Pat Ennis of the GRA announce a deferral of the Garda strike at Phibsboro tower in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Anne-Marie Walsh, Kevin Doyle and Alan O'Keeffe

Gardaí have called off what would have been the first strike in their history just hours before it was due to begin.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) deferred today's work stoppage after getting a fresh offer from the Government worth up to €3,639 a year.

The GRA had rejected a €30.5m pay package that would have boosted its 10,500 members' wages by almost €2,500 earlier this week.

Following a dramatic day of negotiations at the Labour Court, it announced its decision close to 11.20pm, as industrial action loomed from 7am.

The AGSI had earlier suspended its strike after announcing it would ballot its members on proposals that would give their wages an uplift.

The suspension of the strikes on the four Fridays of this month came after the executives of the garda bodies considered a Labour Court recommendation containing new proposals.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Picture: Arthur Carron
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Picture: Arthur Carron

They will now ballot their members on the proposals.

The GRA said the deal needed to be analysed in detail but was an improvement on previous offers. General secretary Pat Ennis announced the strike had been deferred around 11:30pm last night.

"The central executive committee of the Garda Representative Association decided this evening to request our members to report for duty tomorrow and not to engage in industrial action while we consider the Labour Court proposal which we received tonight," he said.

"We're going to reconvene next Monday to determine our position."

He said the proposal from the court "is an improvement on previous proposals received from the government".

He said no decision had been made on whether gardaí would carry out industrial action on the subsequent three Fridays later this month.

The recommendation brings forward the dates for some of the key measures in the rejected deal. It means:

* Rent allowance for new recruits will be restored on acceptance of the deal.

* Rent allowance will be integrated into garda pay from January 1 next, boosting wages by €1,045.

* The introduction of a pre-tour payment from the same date will be worth €1,459 a year.

* New elements include a €500 increase in rent allowance from January 1 next, pushing up premium payments by €125

* In addition, a new €15 premium payment on annual leave to be introduced from April next year will be worth €510 a year.

Warned

It is unclear how much the deal will cost above the €30.5m package previously tabled by the government.

A total of €290m has already been set aside for pay increases next year under the Lansdowne Road deal.

The GRA had warned that it would not halt its industrial action unless the government commited to a substantial hike in its €30.5m pay offer.

As the drama unfolded last night, a government minister said the package on offer had been "significantly enhanced".

Earlier, Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan warned there would be "no replacement for a policing force of over 12,000 people".

While trying to assure the public that there would be officers in every part of the countr, Ms O'Sullivan described the situation as "very serious" and "very unprecedented".

As the GRA grappled with their decision last night it is understood that there was massive friction behind the scenes.

The mid-afternoon announcement that the association would give a derogation to 18 units in the event of a strike caused consternation among some senior members of the association.

It was never agreed by the GRA's Central Executive Committee that officers from units including the Special Detective Unit and Immigration Units would be exempt from the industrial action.

One member of the committee said his "jaw hit the ground" when he heard the details announced at a press conference.

Sources claimed there was a split among the association's executive over the decision to bolster today's contingency plans as hardline members argued it weakened their position.

Gardai who withdrew their labour could have ended up with a fine or a 'note' on their file that would have affected their promotional chances, although nobody would bedismissed.

A source close to garda management described the situation as the GRA essentially "putting a gun to the government's head".

But moderate members of the force said they admired the GRA for "having a backbone".

Irish Independent

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