March shows this normally staid organisation is prepared to take action over pay claim
Published 18/05/2016 | 02:30
General secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, John Jacob admitted recently that if he had suggested to his members three or four years they should march on the Dail in support of their campaign for a restoration of pay rates to 2008 levels he would have been "laughed out of court".
But this year his members were insisting on it.
He got a standing ovation and messages of support from delegates at the association's annual conference last month when he announced he was prepared to go to jail if prosecuted for advocating a strike.
The tension that surrounded the conference debate on pay has abated to some extent. But the will to take action that would not have been contemplated in the past by the members of this normally staid and conservative (when it comes to challenging the regulations) group still remains. And that alone should send a signal to the new Government as well as senior garda management that station gossip about poor morale should be taken seriously.
Along with other public sector groups, the garda supervisory ranks accepted cuts in their pay as a result of the post Celtic Tiger recession. As the economy began to pull out of recession, the garda staff associations were promised a review of the remuneration and conditions of service under the Haddington Road talks.
This review was due to have been completed in 2014 but, almost two years later, it appears to have become bogged down with no end in sight.
Any hopes of a breakthrough in the near future received a setback when the man placed in charge of the review, former Labour Relations Commission conciliation expert, Ray McGee, informed the Department of Justice last week that he was quitting the post for personal reasons.
A march by 300 AGSI members yesterday marked the start of their campaign of action. They pulled back from earlier suggestions that they should march in uniform and are also unlikely to follow up on proposals to place pickets outside the constituency offices of government ministers.
But other recommendations are expected to be implemented, such as a work to rule, which would include a refusing to carry out after-hours administrative duties and other measures. AGSI leaders believe those actions would grind the organisation to a halt as sergeants and inspectors are the pivotal point around which the force revolves.
On top of the fall-out from the recent controversies, this issue could turn it into a very hot summer for the Government and the garda authorities.