Angry gardaí warn of all-out strike if talks fail to restore wages

Antoinette Cunningham. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Luke Byrne

Gardai have upped the ante and are warning the Government to discuss pay restoration - or face industrial action.

Despite such a move being illegal, mid-ranking have grown increasingly angry over their conditions and warned they are ready to press the nuclear button and strike.

John Jacob, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), said there would be no repeat of the 'blue flu' where gardai called in sick en masse in 1998.

"We know that the blue flu, the public didn't appreciate it. If it's a matter that we are withdrawing labour, we will declare we are withdrawing labour.

"We won't hide behind the blue flu, we will come out publicly and say this is a legitimate protest and this is what we are doing.

"And if there has to be consequences, unfortunately, yes, we'll accept them," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Jacob has previously said he was willing to go to jail if prosecuted for promoting the withdrawal of labour by gardai.

He said yesterday that the exact form of any industrial action would be a matter for a special delegate conference in June. The ramping up of the dispute came as around 300 off-duty gardai marched on the Dáil yesterday.

The group began at Castle Street before walking to Merrion Street Upper and delivering a letter to a representative of Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, demanding she engaged in talks.

The gardai, who marched, dressed in blue to signify their connection with law enforcement, say they have suffered pay cuts of up to 25pc since 2008.

Mr Jacob said gardai decided to march out of uniform yesterday to give members the option of escalating their protest, by marching in uniform, in future.

Further protests are planned over the next three weeks.

He said that the members didn't expect to get 25pc back "in one fell swoop", but to be able to engage in negotiations.

"What we do want, is we want them to sit down with us and to plan when they are going to give it back to us and to set out a time-frame for restoration, because that's what our members want to hear."

Antoinette Cunningham, president of the AGSI, said she would seek the views of members on whatever forms of action they want to take.

She said there was "absolutely" a mood for strike action amongst AGSI members.

"Our people are simply not going to take any more talking, or any more placing of garda pay far, far down below the Government agenda.

"They need to sit up and take notice and this will be a protracted campaign if that is what it needs to be," she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Jacob also said that gardai wanted to be able to negotiate for their own pay.

"We would not want, and we will not tolerate, somebody else negotiating our pay for us and that has been happening heretofore," he said.

A statement from the Department of Justice said the Tánaiste and the department would continue to engage actively with the AGSI and the Garda Representative Association.

It said this would happen "over the coming week" and "will consider the letter received [from the garda protesters] that context".