Monday 18 December 2017

It's the second day of Garda industrial action today: Here are eight things you need to know

Strike force: Gardai on duty
Strike force: Gardai on duty

Cathal McMahon and Catherine Devine

Members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) will carry out a second day of industrial action today as talks continue between the Government and Garda unions to avert an all-out strike.

Here's everything you need to know about the second day of garda action:

1. What will AGSI members do?

AGSI members will refrain from using the Pulse system for 24 hours from 7am today.

While most records are input by rank-and-file gardaí, sergeants and inspectors review the records - an action they will refrain from today for the second time in as many weeks.

Negotiations including the AGSI and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) are also set to continue today in a bid to avoid all-out strike on four days next month.

Garda headquarters said the action will present some internal administrative challenges but processes have been put in place to minimise the negative impact.

2. So who will police the state on these days?

With 10,500 rank-and-file gardaí and 2,000 mid-ranking officers expected to strike, front-line policing would be left to gardaí of superintendent rank and above, as well as the Garda reserve and probationers.

Although the GRA has asked members of the ERU and the Regional Support Unit (RSU) -who provide an armed response across the country - not to partake in industrial action, their numbers are not sufficient to provide an adequate emergency response.

Armed gardaí are stationed at Dublin Port, Dublin Airport as well as the Dáil and nearby embassies, with these duties requiring at least eight officers on a single shift.

Talks could lead to a deal that would provide officers with more pay, but would not be seen as breaching the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Union negotiators and Government officials have been examining draft proposals that were agreed by the Justice Department last month, but refused by Garda delegates at a special conference.

GRA general secretary Pat Ennis also wrote to members, in which he stressed that it was of vital importance that members are not seen to entice or induce other members not to go to work.

Sources have said that rank-and-file gardaí, while in support of the strike, are at odds with what will happen if the strikes go ahead.

"Nobody really knows what is happening, because nobody can be seen talking about it. Nothing official is being done," a source said.

"It's all up in the air at the moment among gardaí on the ground.

"Gardaí are fully behind the industrial action, and next Friday's strike is expected to go ahead. They'll then take it from there after that."

4. What will happen when I call 999?

In response to this question a garda spokesman said: "There are mechanisms in place for resolving these matters the Garda Commissioner would encourage all bodies to remain engaged. The best outcome for all involved, including the public is that these issues are resolved within these."

5. Has a garda strike happened before?

On May 1, 1998 gardaí rang in sick in a protest over pay in a protest which became known as the 'Blue Flu'. On this occasion around 5,500 gardaí took part.

Some stations were closed and the army was put on standby for the day. On that occasion the skeleton staff was supported by garda trainees.

This is the first time that the two associations will take industrial action on the same day.

6. Why are AGSI taking industrial action?

The association voted to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement by a majority of over 70pc.

However things changed last month when they learned during a meeting with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure that they were not going to be part of the a public sector pay commission.

"All we were left with were broken promises," AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said.

7. What do they want?

AGSI say they have three key demands

  • Pay restoration of 16.5pc - a claim has already been lodged
  • Access to direct pay negotiations, the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court for future pay deals
  • Recognition and implementation of the EU social committee's decision in 2013 that gardai should have that access plus the right to strike.

8. But aren't they breaking the law by striking?

The law states that it is a crime for Garda members to induce others to strike.

However, the GRA and AGSI have managed to get around this by repeatedly stating that the days of industrial action have been presented as a decision taken by each individual member.

The leadership of both organisations have also pointed out that nobody has been induced by anyone to take a collective action.

During a press conference in Athlone on Monday Ms Cunningham said: “To induce people to break the law you’d have to have ballots, advocating striking, advocate positions,” she said.

“We actually didn’t have to do any of that because our membership came here today so disillusioned with the negotiations and the failed processes that we have been engaging in that we don’t even have to advocate.”

The delegate meetings where decisions were made to pursue industrial action were held in private which means no ringleaders could be identified for prosecution.

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