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Saturday 24 February 2018

Cash solution explored in garda row - but contingency plans still not discussed

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

A cash solution is being explored to settle the garda row that threatens four Fridays of strike action next month.

But Department of Justice sources are adamant any avenue under investigation must be within the framework of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has yet to discuss contingency plans for dealing with planned strikes by gardaí with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, it also emerged.

An official contingency plan is not expected to be in place before the week and will be dependent on how many members will be available on the day - and also on estimates of the numbers likely to refuse to take part in any strike action.

Senior gardai have already stated that their provisional plans were up in the air as a result of the decision by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which meant the supervisory ranks would not be available for duty.

And asked if the Tanaiste had been in contact with Ms O'Sullivan about contingency policing plans for the four strike days, sources said the planning was an issue for the Garda authorities.

However, officials will today meet with a delegation from the AGSI to discuss their decision to join rank and file colleagues in withdrawing their labour.

The officials held talks with the Garda Representative Association on Tuesday and will meet them again tomorrow.

Officials admit they are aware that any proposed settlement of the dispute will almost certainly have to include a cash element.

Ms Fitzgerald has already indicated to the AGSI that she supports their demands to have access to the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court. And in a deal accepted in a ballot of AGSI members last month, it was agreed that a rent allowance should be restored to new garda entrants.

However, AGSI reversed its position at a special delegate conference on Monday by a 95-5pc vote when it opted to join the strike.

President Antoinette Cunningham said many members changed their view after a meeting with Public Expenditure officials when they learned they would not benefit in the short term from the setting up of the new pay commission.

Justice officials said Tuesday's meeting with the GRA had provided "some clarity" on the rank and file stance. They are hopeful today's talks with AGSI would fill in some of the background to its strike decision and also to its pay claim, lodged last week, for an increase of 16.5pc.

The biggest obstacle for the management side is to find a solution that does not break the Lansdowne Road Agreement and does not result in a domino effect elsewhere in the public sector.

Sources said they had options to explore - but did not want to speculate in advance of meetings with the representative bodies.

They also reckoned it was too early to determine if AGSI was in breach of Lansdowne Road, and should be hit with a freeze of increments applied to other groups outside the agreement.

Irish Independent

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