Thursday 14 December 2017

Anger over handling of strike deferral will lead to vote of no confidence in GRA board

GRA president Ciaran O'Neill Photo: Arthur Carron
GRA president Ciaran O'Neill Photo: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and Anne-Marie Walsh

Members of the officer board of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) are facing a motion of no confidence in their leadership as anger grows over the handling of the deferral of yesterday's planned strike.

Sources in the GRA's Central Executive Council (CEC) have confirmed that a motion will be tabled, potentially as early as Monday.

The Irish Independent has seen correspondence from a number of CEC members, as well as rank-and-file gardaí, who are furious over the decision not to go ahead with the strike action.

Much of the anger centres around the decision to agree to a derogation following a meeting at Garda Headquarters on Thursday morning.

The derogation agreed would have ensured that 18 specialist units were on duty while the planned 24-hour strike went ahead.

According to both senior garda and Government figures, this would have ensured that the security of the State was not compromised and that significant policing cover was in place at all times.

A similar derogation was proposed on three occasions in recent weeks but rejected out of hand each time.

It is claimed by various GRA sources that the union's negotiating team, headed up by its president Ciarán O'Neill (inset below) and general secretary Pat Ennis, agreed to the derogation without the approval of the wider executive.

The team have now been accused of a "solo run" by consenting to the request of Garda management to exempt 18 specialist units from the strike. "It weakened our hand significantly, it was the turning point," said one source.

A second source said the decision caused "consternation" with some executive members demanding that it be reversed.

The GRA did not respond to a query from the Irish Independent yesterday.

Calls to members of the officer board also went unanswered.

At this Monday's meeting, the board will be asked to explain why they took the decision without first consulting the executive. They will also be grilled over why they did not inform the executive at the Wednesday night meeting of the executive that Garda management had invited them to talks the following morning.

Dozens of gardaí are understood to have contacted the union yesterday expressing their anger and anxiety.

In some of the correspondence, it is claimed the agreement to the derogation represented a "surrender" on behalf of grassroots members.

Other correspondence states that the momentum behind the GRA's attempts to secure significantly improved pay and conditions has now been lost.

Some rank-and-file gardaí also demanded to see the voting records of executive members from Thursday night's ballot, which resulted in the strike being deferred.

The vote was 20-17 in favour of deferral.

There is also major disquiet over the suggestion that Garda management raised the prospect of martial law being enforced at Thursday's meeting in Garda headquarters.

Such a claim was communicated to all GRA members in a text message on Thursday night.

However, a source close to Garda management denied that the term had been used.

The denial was repeated by Government sources that have been involved in the negotiations over recent weeks.

Gardaí will now be asked to vote on the offer tabled by the Labour Court. The ballot could take a number of days to complete. However, some sources say the deal may be rejected as members are of the belief it "only looks good on paper".

The offer equates to approximately €30 per week after tax, which does not include an additional 15 minutes of parading before a shift.

One source close to the negotiations said "rank-and-file gardaí are not too happy about that, as they already have the longest working week in the public service which just got longer".

The source added: "It's not a pay restoration if you're working extra hours for extra money."

Another source said: "The deal may be rejected out of hand; it's progress but still not good enough.

"It looks good on paper but only equates to a 2pc increase from the current salary."

A third source said the deal was designed to look like gardaí were being offered a more favourable deal than the ones secured by Luas and Dublin Bus drivers, but that was not the case.

Irish Independent

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