Saturday 1 October 2016

Threat of action last thing commissioner needs as she tries to win back public support

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Already battling to come to terms with Brexit, now the Government faces 'Grexit'. The decision by 11,600 gardaí to depart from the safe haven of public service agreements is bad timing for the Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner.

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The teachers, from the Government's perspective, are also on the wrong side of the fence. At least it has breathing space until September before there is likely to be a showdown.

But the garda row could have an immediate effect on running the force, which is already under siege, not just from the terrifying gangland threat but the Policing Authority and other critics in the wake of whistleblower allegations. The last thing the commissioner needs as she tries to win back the public is a serious threat from the rank and file.

The Garda Representative Association says it is not its intention to disrupt the public, but any form of action, even if it is just non-co-operation, could tie the organisation up in knots.

At first glance, it is hard to understand why any public servant wouldn't jump at the chance to back the Lansdowne Road deal. For years, deals with the Government meant cuts and pay freezes.

But here was the first goal in the endgame of getting back €2bn in cuts to pay and pensions. It means an increase in pay worth roughly €2,000 for many over the next two years. By signing up, State employees avoid penalties, including an automatic two-year freeze of their annual and long-service increments.

But like a lot of things, the devil is in the detail.

Gardaí and teachers are objecting to working extra hours. But the gardaí have a second big gripe relating to an independent review of their pay and conditions that should have reported two years ago.

The GRA is using its increased industrial relations leverage to see if it can get a better deal.

Key issues are the right to strike and some sort of timetable for the full restoration of pay, or at least an improvement on the entry pay points for new recruits, which are 10pc lower than their colleagues.

It says the review - a commitment of the Haddington Road deal, which ended on Thursday - should be brought to a conclusion.

It has a good point. With this strategy, it is ensuring that long-running issues it has been trying to move for decades onto the government agenda may finally land there.     

Irish Independent

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