Gardai facing mass exodus this summer over poor pay
An Garda Siochana is facing the prospect of a mass exodus this summer in the event that the incoming government fails to address the wage anomaly whereby new recruits are struggling to survive on gross pay of €23,000 a year.
Calling for the restoration of pay which was cut by government as part of financial measures implemented in the depths of the financial crisis, the vice president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) Ciaran O'Neill, warned that the issue needed to be addressed as a "matter of urgency".
"I've had people who have intimated that they want to leave the force, but they want to wait to see what the outcome of the review [of An Garda Siochana] is. I'm hoping that whatever the outcome is, that it will restore their pay. There is a serious feeling of negativity among our new people. I think they're finding it extremely tough."
Mr O'Neill continued: "I think there's a severe urgency because come July [with the expiration of the Haddington Road agreement], there's a threat to freeze the pay increments, and that will keep those people on a salary of €23,000. There is an urgency here. The clock is ticking. Something needs to be done by the end of June.
"Morale is at an all-time low and people are frustrated. They're hearing that the economy is recovering but they're not feeling it in their pockets," he added.
The GRA vice president's call for the restoration of pay for gardai, and for younger gardai particularly, unusually received support from employers' representative body, IBEC. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, IBEC CEO Danny McCoy said there had to be a place for government, trade unions and employers to sort out disputes such as the Luas strike which involved what he termed "national consequences".
Asked if a special case could be made for workers whose role had a national consequence, such as newly recruited gardai, Mr McCoy said: "I think there can be. As the economy recovers and resources become available, anomalies have developed post the crisis which should be dealt with. But they need to be dealt with in an overall framework otherwise unrealistic wage expectations will develop."
The IBEC chief said he didn't think there was any "appetite" however for going back to the "kind of core centralised wage bargaining mechanism" which social partnership had involved.
That comment puts Mr McCoy and IBEC in direct conflict with the view of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. In today's Sunday Independent, Mr Ahern warns that in the absence of a "new framework of social partnership", the incoming government could find itself in a "crisis situation very quickly" as it is forced to deal with successive cases of industrial unrest. This, Mr Ahern says, would "prove to be a nightmare", akin to that which dogged the country in the early 1980s.
The former Taoiseach's call for a new form of social partnership to address potential industrial unrest by gardai and teachers and other groups was rejected by Siptu president Jack O'Connor however.
He said: "I'm not interested in some kind of an arrangement which is simply about limiting the capacity of organised workers to win pay increases.
"In the absence of any arrangement to distribute the benefits [of the economic recovery] equally, it's a case of everyone for themselves. I'm not saying it is in any way preferable to a mechanism which is about distributing the benefits equally, but people will then have to do what they can themselves."
Mr O'Connor added that social partnership had collapsed in 2009 as employers had not been prepared to pay the price which had been required in order for it to survive.