Saturday 19 August 2017

Review will recommend that gardaí can join trade unions

Sources revealed that the review of An Garda Síochána will uphold their right to strike but there will be deterrents to industrial action. Stock picture
Sources revealed that the review of An Garda Síochána will uphold their right to strike but there will be deterrents to industrial action. Stock picture

Anne-Marie Walsh

A report will today recommend that gardaí can join trade unions but suggest penalties if they go on strike.

Sources revealed that the review of An Garda Síochána will uphold their right to strike, which was given in a European ruling, but there will be deterrents to industrial action.

The recommendations to Government by John Horgan in the review set up under the Haddington Road Agreement will also suggest that a special agreement is reached on procedures adopted in a dispute that would further act to reduce the threat of industrial action.

This could include an agreement in which gardaí and their employer would be bound by decisions given in the final stage of a dispute, such as those of a mediator or the Labour Court.

These arrangements are already in place for other emergency services and were set up at the request of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern when he was Minister for Labour in 1991.

They also determine the levels of cover which should be provided in the event of disputes arising in a variety of essential services.

Sources said a 'Eurocop' decision that ruled gardaí should have the right to strike is complied with in the Horgan report.

The European Committee of Social Rights found that the prohibition on gardaí's right to strike was a violation of the European Social Charter in a case taken on behalf of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Gardaí are legally restricted from going on strike and it is illegal for anyone to encourage them to take industrial action.

However, this did not stop them from threatening a strike on four Fridays last month in protest at their pay rates and in pursuit of industrial relations rights, including the right to take industrial action.

They accepted a €50m pay package to halt the industrial action that will give them access to the state mediation bodies, but the Government has yet to legislate on this and their ability to take industrial action.

The Government will want as many restrictions placed on them taking strike action as possible.

Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 makes provision for the preparation of draft codes of practice for essential services that are submitted by the Workplace Relations Commission to the Minister for Jobs.

The codes of practice provide a framework for the peaceful resolution of disputes in key services. Guidelines say procedures should be as comprehensive as possible, covering all foreseeable circumstances and setting out the consecutive stages involved in the resolution of a dispute. In addition, the code places a joint obligation on employers and unions to have in place agreed contingency plans to deal with any emergency which may arise. In the event of talks failing, the dispute should be referred to the dispute resolution bodies.

During the period that this is taking place, no strikes, lock outs or other industrial action should take place. A minimum of seven days' notice of a strike should be given, but could be longer if agreed.

Irish Independent

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