Saturday 10 December 2016

Industrial strife: Now mid-rank gardaí demand 16.5pc rise

AGSI wants bigger hike than Dublin Bus drivers

Anne-Marie Walsh and Ryan Nugent

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

Talks: Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Talks: Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Garda sergeants and inspectors who are threatening a campaign of industrial action have lodged a claim for a 16.5pc pay rise.

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Negotiators met Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for crisis talks after accusing her department of reneging on a commitment to get them to back the Lansdowne Road deal.

They have threatened to join rank-and-file gardaí who are holding four days of strikes next month.

The size of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) claim may reflect a recent pay rise lodged at Dublin Bus, which was worth roughly 15pc over three years.

Read more: 'No plan yet' to deal with garda strike as Fitzgerald focuses on talks

However, drivers there have been offered 11.25pc, which they are currently balloting on.

Ms Fitzgerald has held out an olive branch to gardaí, by saying her focus is on finding "a pathway" towards restoring pay cuts that were imposed during the financial crisis.

However, she said this would have to satisfy the Government as well as gardaí.

A team from the AGSI attended negotiations at the Department of Justice in Dublin yesterday.

The association sought the meeting after accusing the department of failing to deliver on a promise that AGSI representatives could negotiate directly on their members' pay in future.

AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said this was a key commitment that got members to vote in favour of the Lansdowne Road deal in August.

However, during a meeting with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ms Cunningham said the association said it discovered this would not be the case.

As a result, it is planning to hold a special executive meeting on October 17 to consider industrial action.

The AGSI had demanded the immediate restoration of pay cuts taken during the financial crisis.

Yesterday, it said it would seek a 16.5pc pay cut, which is what the association says was taken from wages through a pension levy and pay cut.

Timeframe

It is understood that the pay claim, sent in a letter to the minister, does not specify a timeframe for the wage increase.

However, sources said that the association is willing to negotiate the increase on a phased basis.

Speaking outside the Department of Justice, Ms Cunningham said: "There was a frank exchange of views between ourselves and the Tánaiste in relation to matters concerning AGSI.

"I think we're happy that we were able to articulate the concerns of our members and we lodged a claim with the minister for a 16.5pc restoration of garda pay.

"It lies with Government to address it (as a) matter of urgency," she added.

She said her delegates were clear that they have lodged a claim for pay restoration, so will want clear progress when they meet on October 17 for conference in Athlone.

"We know that there are several people who will bring forward motions around pay, pay strategy and industrial relations issues for AGSI," she said.

"AGSI also officially lodged a pay claim of 16.5pc with the minister.

Interest

"Minister Fitzgerald told us that our pay claim was 'an all-Government' decision but that she would come back to us in due course.

"We wait with interest for her response on how matters can be progressed."

The minister has also invited the Garda Representative Association (GRA) to talks.

Read more: Garda strikes could leave just 210 to police entire country

The force of 10,500 rank-and-file gardaí are preparing to withdraw services on four dates next month.

They have announced strikes on November 4, 11, 18 and 25, despite being legally restricted from holding work stoppages.

The move came after garda delegates rejected a draft deal with the Department of Justice to get them to back the Lansdowne Road deal.

If it had been accepted, a freeze on pay increments would have been lifted and new recruits would have had a €4,017 rent allowance restored.

Gardaí would have had to work an extra 15 hours a year, which they had done in the past, but there would have been more flexibility in how the work was allocated.

However, gardaí demanded the immediate restoration of pay cuts.

Irish Independent

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