Friday 28 October 2016

GRA announce upcoming dates for garda 'withdrawal of services' industrial action

Conor Feehan and Anne Marie Walsh

Published 28/09/2016 | 17:29

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The Garda Representative Association (GRA) have announced upcoming dates to carry out 'withdrawal of service' industrial action.

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Rank and file gardai have decided to take action in a row over their pay and conditions.

The dates for their withdrawal of service are four consecutive Fridays: November 4, November 11, November 18 and November 25.

Union members will down tools on the days in question.

The GRA said today that emergency services will still be available on the day but there will be no gardai answering calls in stations, no gardai on the beat and no interaction with the public.

When questioned about the legality of the situation, the GRA told RTE's Six One:

"The conference decided today that that is what the association is embarking on, they are exhausted from discussions and industrial relations mechanisms."

They added that it was "not an easy choice to make" and said they felt they had "no option".

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the GRA wrote:

"Members of the Garda Representative Association are denied the civil rights afforded other workers and citizens.

"We are denied the civil right to withdraw our labour.

"There is an implied contract that the civil power will not abuse its police force.

"We have exhausted every channel of industrial relations open to us. Government has taken advantage of our limited rights. Our members feel that we have nowhere left to turn.

"Gardaí do a dangerous, difficult and often thankless job.

"Garda pay has fallen behind others. Our claim for pay restoration has been ignored.

"Gardaí have legitimate grievances – and it is with vocational reluctance that 95% of the GRA membership feel they have no option but to take industrial action.

"Conference has determined today that action must take the form of unilateral industrial action by members of the Garda Representative Association [GRA].

"To this end, action will be taken on 4 November 2016; 11 November 2016; 18 November 2016; 25 November 2016; unless we hear of substantial and significant progress towards real and tangible increases in our pay."

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste released a statement saying she was "disappointed" the GRA had rejected the proposed agreement.

"I am disappointed to hear of the GRA's rejection of the agreement reached with my Department last Friday and their announcement of their intention to take industrial action," the Minister for Justice said.

"The agreement addressed in a very positive way the issues raised by the GRA in the course of negotiations, which took place over a number of months.

“Resolution of any outstanding issues of concern to the GRA can only be addressed through engagement between the parties and my Department continues to be available to discuss those issues.  It would be most unfortunate if, rather than engaging further, action were to be contemplated that would not be in the best interests of our communities or An Garda Síochána.”

This week, 10,500 members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) overwhelmingly said they are willing to take industrial action in a secret ballot.

They were asked to indicate if they were willing to take part in industrial action and 95pc said yes. Two-thirds of the membership voted.

Results, seen by, reveal that 9,875 members were balloted, 6,505 votes were counted with just 136 spoiled. A total of 6,069 (95.3%) voted in favour with just 300 (4.7%) voting against.

"We surveyed our members to find out if there is an appetite for industrial action," said the president of the GRA, Ciaran O'Neill. "The reason for this is because our members have done everything that was asked of them, and the reluctance of the Government to reward our patience has driven us towards this move."

The vote began before an agreement was reached with the Department of Justice that could bring them behind the Lansdowne Road agreement.

There is a general sense of unease and dissatisfaction among the gardaí and it's not over one issue in particular. High on the list is the fact that they believe they have been hard done by compared with other public servants.

They complain that pay for new recruits is among the worst, they have been left out of union talks, do not have access to State mediation bodies or the right to strike.

They also complain that they are the only group of public servants doing a 40-hour week and feel they should have different sick leave rules, given the hazards of their jobs.

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