Tánaiste signals tough line for talks on Garda strike
Says others took pay deal Funds sought for more staff
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has signalled that a tough line will be taken on the threat of Garda strike action, saying gardaí have been offered a path to pay restoration that 285,000 other public sector workers have accepted.
The Justice Minister is to meet the Garda Representative Association (GRA) today amid the threat by its more than 10,000 members to take four days of strike action next month in a row over pay.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has also not ruled out a strike after it demanded its members get a 16.5pc pay hike.
Speaking at the Oireachtas Justice Committee, Ms Fitzgerald said: "Obviously no one wants to see An Garda Síochána taking strike action." She said the Government negotiating team will do "everything possible" to ensure there is progress in talks. But she warned there is a limit to what the Government can offer in the context of the wider deal on public sector pay.
Ms Fitzgerald outlined the offer made to the GRA, which she argued would have led to an "immediate improvement" in conditions for its members. She pointed out that 21 other unions have accepted the Government's pay restoration deal.
She was responding to a question from Fianna Fáil's Jack Chambers, who said there are "significant morale issues" in the force and described the starting salaries for Garda members as "quite disgraceful".
Ms Fitzgerald said a draft agreement with the GRA involved the lifting of the increment freeze and the restoration of the rent allowance for new entrants. She added that the unwinding of the emergency financial measures that hit public sector pay would also benefit Garda members in the coming years. There is also a commitment to move to a 39-hour week, and she said promotion opportunities will rise as recruitment increases. "The reality is that that has now been rejected," Ms Fitzgerald said.
She added that there are "parameters in relation to public sector pay", and that "285,000 public sector workers have accepted the approach by Government; 21 unions have signed that and we have a very clear programme going forward in terms of restoration of pay.
"But having said that, I want to see what way forward we can find," Ms Fitzgerald added.
She also informed TDs of her priorities for spending in the upcoming Budget, including a request for funding so that "several hundred" civilians can be hired to help Garda officers return to frontline duties.
She is also seeking cash to begin work on the provision of a new forensic science laboratory. "This would mean that this important capital project will be completed in 2019 rather than commencing in that year, as originally provided for," Ms Fitzgerald said.
Ms Fitzgerald referred to plans to accelerate Garda recruitment, and said she expects 800 trainees will be recruited next year, and that a start would be made on doubling the numbers in the Garda reserve, again subject to securing the funding.