Wednesday 23 August 2017

Seven things you need to know about the upcoming garda strikes

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Stock picture
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

An Garda Siochána is facing into a very uncertain four weeks with four 'strike days' planned for November.

On Monday the leadership of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) decided "overwhelmingly" in favour of joining their rank-and-file colleagues for four days of industrial action next month.

Here are eight things you need to know about this:

What will AGSI members do?

AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham pictured alongside Solicitor Michael Hegarty (Smyth, O'Brien, Hegarty Solicitors) and John Jacob General Secretary at a press briefing following the AGSI vote at the Special Delegate Conference for a withdrawl of labour at the Sheraton Athlone. Pic Steve Humphreys
AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham pictured alongside Solicitor Michael Hegarty (Smyth, O'Brien, Hegarty Solicitors) and John Jacob General Secretary at a press briefing following the AGSI vote at the Special Delegate Conference for a withdrawl of labour at the Sheraton Athlone. Pic Steve Humphreys

Individual members will withdraw labour on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 to coincide with the Garda Representative Association's (GRA) industrial relations action for "maximum impact".

And AGSI's industrial action will begin as early as this Friday when members will refuse to log on to the Garda Pulse computer system. The following Friday, October 28, AGSI members will refuse to undertake any administrative duties such as detailing members for duty.

Members insisted they were not going on strike but were "withdrawing labour" on the four Fridays of November.

So who will police the state on these days?

Approximately 10,500 rank- and-file gardaí and 2,000 Garda sergeants and inspectors will withdraw from work - leaving between 300 and 400 Superintendents and higher to protect the country.

On Monday the Central Executive Committee of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said members of specialist units should not take part in next month's withdrawal of services.

Garda Representative Association members during a protest over Garda salaries at Leinster House in June. Photo: Collins
Garda Representative Association members during a protest over Garda salaries at Leinster House in June. Photo: Collins

It is "respectfully suggesting" members in the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Regional Support Units (RSUs) do not to join their colleagues in any industrial action.

It is possible that senior management will call in Garda Reservists to support them on the day. There are currently 789 reservists in the state. Garda recruits in Templemore and probationer officers who are still finishing their training may also be recruited for the day.

There are 529 probationers currently in Garda Stations while there are 450 students in Templemore.

It waits to be seen if a request will be made to the Defence Forces to support this skeleton crew.

What will happen when I call 999?

In response to this question a garda spokesman said: "There are mechanisms in place for resolving these matters the Garda Commissioner would encourage all bodies to remain engaged. The best outcome for all involved, including the public is that these issues are resolved within these."

Has this happened before?

On May 1, 1998 gardaí rang in sick in a protest over pay in a protest which became known as the 'Blue Flu'. On this occasion around 5,500 gardaí took part.

Some stations were closed and the army was put on standby for the day. On that occasion the skeleton staff was supported by garda trainees.

This is the first time that the two associations will take industrial action on the same day.

Why are AGSI taking industrial action?

The association voted seven weeks ago to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement by a majority of over 70pc.

However things changed three weeks ago when they learned during a meeting with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure that they were not going to be part of the a public sector pay commission.

"All we were left with were broken promises," AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said.

What do they want?

AGSI say they have three key demands

  • Pay restoration of 16.5pc - a claim has already been lodged
  • Access to direct pay negotiations, the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court for future pay deals
  • Recognition and implementation of the EU social committee's decision in 2013 that gardai should have that access plus the right to strike.

But aren't they breaking the law by striking?

The law states that it is a crime for Garda members to induce others to strike.

However, the GRA and AGSI have managed to get around this by repeatedly stating that the days of industrial action have been presented as a decision taken by each individual member.

The leadership of both organisations have also pointed out that nobody has been induced by anyone to take a collective action.

During a press conference in Athlone on Monday Ms Cunningham said: “To induce people to break the law you’d have to have ballots, advocating striking, advocate positions,” she said.

“We actually didn’t have to do any of that because our membership came here today so disillusioned with the negotiations and the failed processes that we have been engaging in that we don’t even have to advocate.”

The delegate meetings where decisions were made to pursue industrial action were held in private which means no ringleaders could be identified for prosecution.

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