Wednesday 22 February 2017

'Floodgates open' to pay claims after gardaí offered special deal

Anne-Marie Walsh, Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the garda proposal would impact on next year's Budget Photo: Tom Burke
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the garda proposal would impact on next year's Budget Photo: Tom Burke

The floodgates may have opened to public servants' pay claims after gardaí were offered a package worth up to €50m to call off a potentially catastrophic strike.

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Unions have now upped the ante in staking a claim to more pay rises, just a day after the Labour Court proposed a deal worth up to €3,639 per garda.

The Government faces the threat of further industrial unrest after unions accused it of breaching the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to defend the wage pact with State employees, which commits to moderate pay rises and says there should be no cost-increasing claims. He warned there was no "endless pot of money".

Last night, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe told the Irish Independent that the Garda proposal would impact on next year's Budget.

"This Labour Court arbitration will have consequences for spending plans for next year. There is no endless supply of money to deal with this, and I will be working with Cabinet to deal with these issues," he said.

Mr Donohoe will brief his Cabinet colleagues on the impact of the proposal, with Government sources expressing concern that it will open the floodgates to a wave of new pay claims. One senior source admitted that the Government was extremely surprised by the scale of the recommendations.

"This will have huge implications. It has created serious problems for the Government," the source said.

The Central Executive Committee of the GRA will meet on Monday to decide if further strikes will go ahead. It will also start balloting members next week.

The size of the pay package on offer to 12,580 members of the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has caused union outrage.

The leader of the Civil, Public and Services Union Eoin Ronayne said the potential for industrial action would increase the longer it took the Government to get into talks.

"The danger for the Government is that unless it is prepared to extend the same benefits to other public servants, people will work out for themselves that the only reason the gardai secured the deal is that they were prepared to take industrial action," he said. "And the logical extension is other unions will take that route."

The largest public sector union, Impact, said the Garda deal "goes beyond the Lansdowne Road Agreement and therefore represents a material change in the situation".

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors' National Executive is meeting early next week and will issue ballots to members following the meeting.

Further strikes are scheduled for November 11, 18 and 25. But the next two strikes are unlikely to go ahead, as strikes have been suspended to allow balloting to take place.

Sources said ratification of the Garda proposal is by no means a foregone conclusion, as militant Central Executive Committee members are actively campaigning against it.

Fianna Fáil said it looked likely that talks on a successor deal may have to start much earlier than planned.

The threat of a deluge of pay claims comes as a widespread and indefinite school shutdown appears inevitable next week in a row over teachers' pay. The Government is likely to face greater pressure from the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) to meet its demands following the success of the gardaí's ultimatum.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would not say what the cost of the Labour Court recommendation would be. But sources said the deal is expected to cost in the region of €50m, although calculations are being finalised.

Irish Independent

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