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Sunday 23 October 2016

Rank-and-file gardaí to strike on four Fridays in November

Members of force risk breaking the law unless they get 'tangible increases in pay'

Anne-Marie Walsh and Conor Feehan

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

Members of the garda risk breaking the law unless they get ‘tangible increases in pay’. Stock picture
Members of the garda risk breaking the law unless they get ‘tangible increases in pay’. Stock picture

Rank-and-file gardaí are planning an unprecedented four-day strike in November after embarking on a campaign of industrial action in a row over their pay and conditions.

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They will not report for duty on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 after rejecting a deal struck with the Government to get them behind the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

And in a surprise move, garda sergeants and inspectors are also considering a campaign of industrial action after they said "significant new information" about how their pay will be determined in the future came to light.

Gardaí are restricted from going on strike and it is illegal for anyone to encourage them to withdraw their labour.

However, there is a grey area in relation to whether individual members can withdraw their services.

General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association, Pat Ennis, said emergency services will continue to operate during the strikes, including the 999 service, while other ranks in the force would be at work.

He said the organs of the State had forced gardaí into this position and called for the immediate restoration of pay cuts taken during the crisis years "without delay".

He said going on strike was not a choice that was made easily but members were exhausted from engaging with industrial relations mechanisms that had proved "fruitless".

"We are a vocational group of people," said Mr Ennis. "We felt we had no option. It's a momentous day. It's unprecedented."

The impending work stoppages will be a major blow to the Government. It already faces the prospect of industrial action by teachers who are outside the Lansdowne Road deal.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "I am disappointed to hear of the GRA's rejection of the agreement reached with my department last Friday and their announcement of their intention to take industrial action.

"The agreement addressed in a very positive way the issues raised by the GRA in the course of negotiations, which took place over a number of months."

Gardaí rejected the draft deal at a special delegate conference in Tullamore yesterday.

The meeting came a day after 95pc of the association's members said they were willing to take industrial action in a secret ballot.

Rank-and-file members of the force had already decided they will not co-operate with the Garda Commissioner's €200m five-year plan to modernise it after the Government stopped paying their increments in July.

And after rejecting the deal yesterday, almost 200 delegates, representing the association's 10,500 members in 31 divisions, mandated the conference to take industrial action.

In a statement, the GRA said the industrial action would be "up to and including a unilateral withdrawal of services" unless it got "substantial and significant progress towards real and tangible increases in our pay".

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) then upped the ante following a special executive meeting.

President Antoinette Cunningham said the AGSI was now also considering a campaign of industrial action after what she described as "significant new information emerging from the Public Service Commission on Pay and matters relating to the Lansdowne Road Agreement".

Irish Independent

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