Saturday 25 February 2017

Garda associations lash out at pay commission chairman over 'mutiny' remarks

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Kevin Duffy and Antoinette Cunningham
Kevin Duffy and Antoinette Cunningham

The body representing middle ranking gardai has hit out at the chairman of the public Sector Pay Commission Kevin Duffy after he likened the recent threat of strike action to “mutiny”.

Speaking at an industrial relations conference event in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Duffy - the former head of the Labour Court - said the strike threat was “unlawful by any standard”.

Mr Duffy said many terms had been used to described the strike threat - but that “mutiny” is most appropriate in his view.

“Here was a dispute that was unlawful and there was either no mechanism to enforce the law or no desire to enforce the law. And that sort of thing brings the law into disrepute,” Mr Duffy said.

The comments will cause concern within political circles given that Mr Duffy is heading up the commission established to examine public sector pay and conditions.

The strike threat by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) was called off at the eleventh hour following a recommendation by the Labour Court.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, AGSI said the remarks should be withdrawn.

AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham said they were “extremely damaging and divisive.”

She added: “Members of this Association are currently balloting on a Labour Court proposal which was negotiated by both sides in a fair and conciliatory manner and under due process but under very stressful conditions a number of weeks ago.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) also said it was dismayed at the comments.

Pat Ennis, GRA General Secretary said: “The National Executive of this Association read the comments in the media today and were shocked that a Government-appointed, and supposedly independent Chairman, would articulate such views which we believe are unfair, unfounded and hugely damaging to relations between this Association and the PSPC.”

“It is of great concern that such comments should be made regarding both this Association and the Labour Court; and any confidence that the GRA might receive a fair hearing at the PSPC has diminished - and this situation is now untenable.

I am astonished that such comments would be publicly stated by the chairman of a State body designed to serve all employees equally.

We are currently balloting our members on the Labour Court recommendation that was negotiated on a problem-solving basis; and for a public official to intervene in such a manner is neither welcome nor appropriate at this juncture.”

Separately, it emerged on Thursday that the retired judge appointed to lead an review into allegations of a smear campaign against garda whistle-blowers has sought a seven day extension.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was granted the request by the Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

He is examining allegations made by Superintendent David Taylor that garda management engaged in a smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

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