More than half of gardai snub poll on action over pay cuts
MORE than half of the membership of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) did not vote in a survey to gauge support for taking industrial action over public sector pay cuts.
But a large majority of those who voted came out in favour of limited action -- which will not include a withdrawal of services.
The GRA leadership has interpreted the result as a strong mandate to implement some form of action.
However, whatever measures are selected will not be enforced until May at the earliest as they will have to be endorsed by the GRA's annual conference.
There are about 11,800 rank-and-file gardai in the force and the association represents around 95pc of them.
The results of the questionnaire -- distributed by the leadership after Christmas instead of official ballot papers so as to avoid any legal conflict -- were announced yesterday afternoon.
A total of 5,540 members cast their votes. Of those 7.2pc (401 votes) were in favour of taking no further action.
Some 65.4pc (3,622) supported taking steps -- but not a withdrawal of services -- with the exact measures to be determined by the central executive committee.
Another 18.4pc (1,020) opted for a strike and 8.8pc (490) were in favour of other proposals.
Questioned about the poor turnout for the vote, general secretary PJ Stone suggested that many members could have been concerned by the comments of Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy about possible breaches of the law or the disciplinary regulations.
But Mr Stone said there was no intimidation of his members during the voting.
He also ruled out another 'blue flu' -- when gardai individually took sick leave in an organised campaign -- and instead pledged a collective action which would not impinge on the safety or security of the public.
Mr Stone said the results sent a clear message to the Government and "to all and sundry" that gardai were not going to tolerate the "draconian" pay cuts.
However, the options available to the GRA are limited. The most serious measure that could be adopted is a refusal to work overtime but this would have financial implications for rank-and-file members, already on reduced take-home pay packets.
Gardai could also refuse to use their own mobile phones and home computers for official duties and withdraw their co-operation on a range of issues.
Mr Stone confirmed that a decision on the measures would be made towards the end of April at the annual conference.
The GRA is to hold elections to the central executive at the conference which means a final review of the proposals is unlikely before the new executive gets an opportunity to meet in May.
In the meantime, the GRA is also considering a constitutional challenge to the Government over the ban on gardai acquiring trade union status. It may also take its case to the European courts.
A separate judicial review of the impact of pension levies on gardai is due to be heard in the High Court next month.