Friday 28 July 2017

Strike action is all but certain as fresh offer rejected

A strike on Friday looks all but certain to happen after a fresh offer for improved terms and conditions of work was rejected last night. (stock photo)
A strike on Friday looks all but certain to happen after a fresh offer for improved terms and conditions of work was rejected last night. (stock photo)

Anne Marie Walsh and Kevin Doyle

The Garda Representative Association's executive has unanimously rejected a deal which was brokered in a bid to avoid an all-out strike.

A strike on Friday looks all but certain to happen after a fresh offer for improved terms and conditions of work was rejected last night.

It's understood that the dispute will now be referred to the Labour Court for a recommendation.

The executive committee of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents 10,500 rank and file members, unanimously rejected the deal proposed by the Workplace Relations Commission.

The move will come as a massive blow to the Government which had hoped the involvement of the WRC would bring a successful resolution to the dispute.

Sources revealed that the deal "tweaked" by the Department of Justice would have been worth almost €2,500 per garda, but gardai would have had to work for over half of it.

Rent allowance worth €4,115 would be assimilated into pay, which would push up unsocial hours allowances by €1,025. In addition, a so-called 'parade time' - for briefing colleagues on incidents and updates 15 minutes before going on duty was worth €1,458.

The first six pages of the deal - which would have cost €30.5m - were the same as one that was rejected October 23. It included a refund of increments that were frozen for failing to back the Lansdowne Road Agreement and commitments to address GRA demands for access to state mediation bodies.

Read more: Garda strikes look certain to happen as GRA unanimously reject proposal aimed at resolving pay dispute

The proposal document, seen by the Irish Independent, says the cost of incorporating the rent allowance into the incremental pay scale would be €10.7m, due to the increased cost of premium payments. In addition, the estimated cost arising from higher overtime payments as a result of the measure would be €5.1m, giving a total cost of €15.8m.

The value of the Garda Inspectorate's recommendation in relation to pre-tour briefings, otherwise known as a 'parade' payment, would be worth €1,459 a year to a garda, and would cost the government €14.7m annually.

It says half of the rent allowance would be integrated into wages next January, and the other half in January 2018. The pre-tour briefings would be introduced from April 1 next year at the latest "in order to allow the garda commissioner sufficient time to put in place protocols to ensure consistent roll-out and operation across the country".

On pay restoration, it does not offer anything above the Lansdowne Road deal. It notes that the new Public Service Pay Commission's first report will address the issue of the unwinding of the Fempi legislation and will help provide the government with a roadmap for exiting the legislation. It says it will give "equal status to all public service groups" and each of them, including the garda associations, will get the opportunity to make their case about their concerns regarding pay.

The GRA has demanded a clear roadmap for the restoration of pay cuts suffered during the financial crisis. It wants a 39-hour week, down from 40 hours, which could boost pay, and a new method of calculating overtime that would increase the rate. It demanded the restoration of all allowances that were abolished for recruits and elimination of two-tier pay.

Reacting to the decision, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "The Government have proposed a substantial offer to the GRA.

"We are disappointed by this rejection but remain committed to exploring every option, within the Lansdowne Road agreement, to resolve this matter."

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald was due to attend a series of events in London today but is understood to have cancelled in order to deal with the crisis.

If the deal had been accepted, it would have left the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, who are also due to strike, somewhat isolated in their dispute. AGSI's National Executive is scheduled to meet this morning. A GRA spokesperson said no further talks have been scheduled.

Read more: Monday interview: 'Silence of 270,000 State employees is not a sign of weakness'

Irish Independent

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