Monday 24 April 2017

Only 'substantial pay rise' can stop Garda strikes from going ahead

GRA president Ciaran O’Neill leads his team from Lansdowne House after an adjournment with the Labour Court. Picture: Frank McGrath
GRA president Ciaran O’Neill leads his team from Lansdowne House after an adjournment with the Labour Court. Picture: Frank McGrath

Kevin Doyle and Anne-Marie Walsh

A series of unprecedented strikes by rank- and-file gardaí is still set to go ahead unless there is a "substantial increase" in the Government's offer of a €2,500 pay rise.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) demanded a substantial pay increase before it would suspend the industrial action as it attended a hearing following a last-minute intervention by the State's industrial relations court of last resort.

Arriving back at the Labour Court following a meeting of the association's executive last night, GRA president Ciarán O'Neill said the association was open to discussions and it was hoping for a positive result at talks.

But he said tomorrow's strike was set to go ahead without a breakthrough on pay rises.

"Until and unless there's a substantial increase, and we mean a substantial increase in the offer, the actions determined by conference are still going ahead," he said.

However, Mr O'Neill would not say what this substantial increase would be.

The association's negotiating team left the court shortly before 5pm to attend a scheduled meeting of its central executive committee at the Phibsboro HQ, before returning to the court close to 9pm.

In a statement issued by the GRA, it emphasised that the decision on industrial action on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 "remains in place".

"In order to progress the negotiations the GRA central executive committee has agreed to ballot the membership of the GRA on any non-binding recommendations of the Labour Court," it said.

"The Labour Court requires that the distribution of such ballot to the membership be agreed as a prerequisite before it can hear our case. The association remains fully engaged in the negotiation process."

GRA sources said the union executive was split 60-40 over the official approach.

Sources present said there was particular concern raised about agreeing to ballot the membership on any non-binding recommendation - before such proposals may be assessed in full.

The Workplace Relations Commission stepped in last week to advise the Government and Garda associations on an "ad hoc" basis as they drew up draft proposals in a bid to broker a deal.

The executives of the GRA and AGSI rejected proposals that were drawn up during discussions with the Department of Justice.

Following this, the Workplace Relations Commission referred the dispute to the Labour Court.

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Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has sent a letter to every member of An Garda Síochána instructing them to turn up for work tomorrow.

Ms O'Sullivan warned gardaí that if the industrial action took place, it may "irreparably compromise our authority to police the State".

The AGSI is due to attend the Labour Court this morning.

It has not clarified if it rejected the same proposals as the GRA, but president Antoinette Cunningham said the Government offer was "inequitable".

Overtime

The GRA has demanded a road-map for the restoration of pay cuts, access to State mediation bodies and the right to strike. It has also sought a 39-hour working week as well as higher overtime rates.

The €30.5m deal would have given gardaí almost €2,500 extra a year. But some gardaí said they would need around €4,000 to back it.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that both the GRA and the AGSI had received significant offers to halt their planned industrial action.

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He was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who described the situation as "very dangerous" and said "untold damage" could result from the threatened industrial action.

He told the Dáil that gardaí had been "demoralised and ignored" and accused the Department of Justice of being "rudderless".

Mr Kenny said there would be "no winners" if more than 12,000 gardaí failed to show up for work.

Irish Independent

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