Sunday 25 February 2018

Gardai picket ‘closed-door’ talks over public-sector pay

Declan Lynch, of Wicklow Division, during a GRA protest on Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Declan Lynch, of Wicklow Division, during a GRA protest on Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sarah Stack and Ed Carty

Up to 30 gardai have picketed public sector pay talks amid claims they have been frozen out of negotiations.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) insisted it will not stop trade unionists or government officials from passing the protest line outside Lansdowne House in Dublin.

But it criticised Congress' public service committee for negotiating behind closed doors on their behalf when gardai cannot be granted trade union status or form a union.

John Parker, GRA president, said those involved in the talks have no concept of the dangers gardai face.

"There's no danger money allowance, no public order allowance, and no allowance for getting stabbed or shot," he said.

Gardai outside the talks venue carried placards with slogans including "1913 Lockout: 2013 Sell Out?".

The GRA has claimed that it was never involved in actual talks on public sector pay and only took part in an opening briefing session.

The association is not a trade union. Gardai can form only a representative body and under an oath that all officers take they cannot strike or take part in industrial action.

The GRA has stopped short of publicly threatening unofficial action or a "blue flu" like 1998 when thousands of officers phoned in sick.

But the association's 11,300 members are planning to restrict their work practices from tomorrow by not using personal equipment and material to support their duties.

A GRA spokesman said gardai and the public will have to see what difference the 'withdrawal of goodwill' makes.

"The force isn't properly resourced with many gardai using their own personal equipment," he said.

"That will stop."

Under the plan, gardai will not volunteer to work on days off for non-public duties such as policing sporting events or concerts.

They will drive official Garda vehicles only when on duty and officers who have not passed the full driver training courses will not drive.

Officers will not use personal cars while on duty or personal mobile phones, laptops, cameras and home telephone numbers will not be left with stations. They will also ignore work phone calls when not on duty.

The protest by gardai, who are all on a day off or have taken annual leave, comes a day after officials met Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan for a "strong exchange" of views at Garda headquarters.

Mr Parker said the commissioner was shown original bank statements from members struggling to survive, including one which revealed a mortgage in arrears by €25,000.

He maintained that many officers bought their homes in the boom based on a wage which has since been hit with cuts and levies.

Mr Parker said "switching off the goodwill tap" was the only way gardai can show their discontent with those negotiating more cuts.

"You cannot compare garda work to the average industrial worker, but that's what those guys are doing inside," he added.

The GRA said members, who already work new rotas, have been using their own cars and equipment and doing extra work on computers and laptops from home.

"We are trying to get across that there's a large number of things we do voluntarily, often off our own back," Mr Parker said.

"We are not asked to do them, but we provide a sticking plaster to a service that's under-resourced.

"If we are not using our own private cars there would be much more of a drain on the patrol cars, which should be dropping off gardai to perform duties and to courses and courts.

"And inside in the offices you don't have enough computers, so gardai use their own laptops and spend two to three hours finishing up statements at home.

"We don't get paid for that, but we're not asking to be paid for it, we're asking for resources.


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