Garda body warns of industrial dispute over pay freeze
The threat of a crippling campaign of garda industrial action is looming larger after the Government refused to row back on a pay freeze that is set to hit over 6,700 members of the force.
Thousands of gardaí and teachers yesterday became subject to a two-year pay pause under emergency legislation for failing to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
It means they will not receive their annual or long-service increments, which are due to members at differing dates.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has demanded an exemption to the freeze until a crucial report on their terms and conditions is unveiled, or it will begin an "industrial campaign" that could lead to severe disruption.
And last night it rejected a fresh attempt by the Department of Justice to heal the rift, by offering a compromise on its demand that members work an extra 30 hours a year.
A copy of a Department of Justice proposal document put to the garda body, seen by the Irish Independent, reveals an offer to allow the Garda Commissioner decide what the hours are used for.
It also offers the same bargaining rights as other unions, and the return of a rent allowance worth over €4,000 for new entrants by November.
And in a letter sent in the past few days, Government sources said the department indicated the hours could be used for purposes such as training or briefing sessions.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Richard Bruton said he was hoping for "constructive dialogue" in a forthcoming meeting with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).
This follows its rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and a directive to members to stop working the 33 Croke Park productivity hours in September.
The ASTI , which staged a protest outside the Dáil yesterday, said its main focus in those talks would be the abolition of lower pay scales that apply to new teachers. If the dispute is not settled, it has the potential to close schools in September.
While recognising the threat of industrial action, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted the door remains open for talks with the unions. "But that has to be done within the framework of the Lansdowne Road Agreement in respect of the 280,000 other public servants who have signed up," Mr Donohoe told the Irish Independent.