Tuesday 25 October 2016

Gardaí join teachers in revolt over pay deal

Rank and file officers say 'we've had enough'

Daniel McConnell, Paul Williams and Kevin Doyle

Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The Government is on a collision course with tens of thousands of gardaí and teachers who have rejected the deal aimed at restoring their pay to pre-crash levels.

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The decision by rank and file gardaí to join with the teachers in voting against the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) is a massive blow for for Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The national executive of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) is to meet next Tuesday to discuss the implications of the overwhelming 86.5pc vote against the package.

Last night, a senior GRA official told the Irish Independent the decision of the rank-and-file was an expression that "they have had enough".

"We have been treated abysmally over the past six years; our wages, pensions, overtime and allowances have been slashed, while at the same time we are expected to continue keeping the peace.

"On top of that, our workplace resources have been decimated and the net effect has been an increase in crime across the country, particularly burglaries," the official said.

Gardaí say that the only way the Government can compensate for a massive drop in manpower levels is by increasing overtime.

Already, the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland oppose the agreement, as do the Irish Medical Organisation, Unite and the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which represents around 2,000 mid-ranking gardaí, previously rejected the public service pay deal by 52.6pc to 47.4pc.

Its leadership had issued no recommendation on the deal.

Last night, Tánaiste Joan Burton indicated that the Government would press ahead with the LRA regardless of the concerns.

"Clearly, people who have issues to raise will have to reflect. The legislation is going through the Dáil as we speak," she said, adding that the LRA was targeted at lower-paid public servants.

"The guards and different garda unions have to make up their own mind. We live in a democracy and it's for them to discuss with their members how they are going to deal with this," she said.

Despite rejecting the deal, the teachers and gardaí will still receive the benefits of LRA pay restoration through the reduction of the pension levy.

In a statement, Mr Howlin noted that the LRA had already been accepted by a majority of unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and therefore the Government would stick to it.

It is understood that many gardaí object to the additional 30 hours of unpaid overtime a year which they had to undertake under the current Haddington Road Agreement.

While the gardaí have rejected the deal, the Government in recent weeks published new financial emergency legislation, which will allow them to take punitive measures against trade unions that repudiated collective agreements, such as the Lansdowne Road deal.

So the Government would technically have the power to freeze increments for gardaí and second-level teachers until 2018. But sources last night said that any move to implement such a freeze would not happen this side of the General Election.

The Lansdowne Road deal provides for most public service staff to receive €2,000 in increased earnings from January 2016 to September 2017.

Irish Independent

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