Saturday 22 October 2016

Policing now in meltdown as sergeants join Garda 'strike'

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:30

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Government has been plunged into a policing crisis by the decision of Garda supervisors to refuse to work on the four days of strike action planned by their rank and file colleagues next month.

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The move effectively dismantles contingency plans drawn up by Garda authorities and means no officers will be available to supervise recruits or reservists.

The leadership of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) decided "overwhelmingly" in favour of supporting the protest at a special conference in Athlone yesterday.

Members insisted they were not going on strike but were "withdrawing labour" on the four Fridays of November selected by the Garda Representative Association for their action.

Legal advice was given to conference delegates that they were not breaking the law by withdrawing labour and it was unclear whether they could face disciplinary action.

This is the first time that the two associations have opted to refuse to work, as only GRA members were involved in the infamous 'Blue Flu' action.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said last night she was disappointed by the decision, particularly as the AGSI had not balloted its members beforehand and only seven weeks ago had voted to accept the Lansdowne Road Agreement by over 70pc.

"My focus and that of the Government is on negotiation. I remain focused on finding a pathway to negotiate with AGSI in a way which is fair to their members, the taxpayer and other public sector workers," Ms Fitzgerald said.

AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said the time for talking was over and it was now time for action. She insisted that members were not walking away from the Lansdowne Road Agreement, but accused the official side of reneging on their part of the deal.

But she held out some hope that the action could be averted if Department of Justice officials engaged in meaningful and constructive talks.

Ms Cunningham said her association was always open for further talks and had already accepted an invitation from officials to meet them for discussions this Thursday.

The initial phase of their campaign will begin this Friday when AGSI members will not log onto the force's Pulse computer system or engage in any Pulse-related activities from 7am to 7pm.

On Friday, October 28, they will also refuse to use Pulse or undertake any administrative duties such as detailing members for duty, processing files or responding to correspondence.

Their campaign will be stepped up dramatically next month when they join the rank and file in refusing to work on November 4, 11, 18 and 25.

The AGSI said they had three objectives:

  • 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.

As the 151 delegates from 31 branches met in Athlone yesterday morning, views were divided on what action should be taken, but by the afternoon contributions from the floor by seasoned veteran delegates had swayed the vote overwhelmingly in favour of withdrawing labour.

It is understood that only 5pc voted against the move.

Ms Cunningham said they had not taken the decision lightly.

"However, we feel we have no choice but to show Government how serious we are about restoring pay for our members. We also hope that senior Garda management will respect our decision to take this action," she said.

Irish Independent

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