Friday 27 April 2018

Striking gardai 'will have their pay docked'

The Army will be on 'standby' on Friday, Tanaiste confirms

Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Damien Eagers
Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Damien Eagers

Group Political Editor

GARDAI who do not show up for work on Friday will have their pay docked and could face disciplinary action, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has indicated.

After a Cabinet meeting dominated by the impending garda industrial action, Ms Fitzgerald confirmed that the Army will be on “standby” in the event that the industrial action goes ahead.

And she said Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan had “no choice” but to issue a letter to all gardaí warning them to turn up for duty on Friday.

The Justice Minister and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe are to meet directly with the leadership of the Garda Representatives Association (GRA) and Association of Garda Sergeant and Inspectors (AGSI) tonight ahead of engagement with the Labour Court tomorrow.

Ms Fitzgerald described tomorrow as a “very important day”.

Asked about contingency plans, she confirmed: “The Defence Forces are obviously on standby as an aid to the civil powers. But let’s be very clear it’s as an aid to the civil powers. They can’t replace An Garda Siochana.”

AGSI President, Antoinette Cunningham Photo: Colin O'Riordan
AGSI President, Antoinette Cunningham Photo: Colin O'Riordan

And in a direct appeal to officers, the Tánaiste said: “The point I would make is that we shouldn’t lose sight either of the fact gardaí have taken a solemn oath to protect the public.

“Each garda has to consider whether they action they take is consistent with that.”

Mr Donohoe reiterated that a deal must be within the confines of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

“Everything we have done and continue to do is inside the framework of the Lansdowne Road agreement and will continue to be.

“Any proposal that’s put forward will be within the framework of the Lansdowne Road agreement,” he said.

Earlier, the Garda Commissioner had warned that strike action by gardaí, sergents and inspectors may "irreparably compromise" the force's authority to run the state.

In a letter, sent to all garda members, Noirín O'Sullivan said the industrial action, scheduled to take place on Friday, will "negatively impact" on public confidence in An Garda Siochana and "jeopardise the respect" in which the force and each member is held.

She has directed that all members report for duty during the period 7am on Friday, November 4 2016 to 7am, Saturday, November 5.

The Commissioner has also directed that all leave and rest days for Garda members for November 4 2016 are cancelled.

In the letter Ms O'Sullivan said local Superintendents will direct personnel under their control on their required duties to ensure "appropriate policing of their areas of responsibility".

“The events of recent days and weeks have led to An Garda Síochána finding itself in an unprecedented situation.

“In particular, the action proposed for Friday 4th November and subsequently is without precedent and is gravely damaging for the delivery of a policing and security service for this country as well as for An Garda Síochána as an organisation and each individual member of An Garda Síochána,” she wrote.

She wrote: “I believe that in the event that the proposed course of action takes place, it may irreparably compromise our authority to police the State. In addition, it will negatively impact on public confidence in An Garda Síochána and jeopardise the respect in which An Garda Síochána and each member of the Garda organisation is held.”

The Commissioner finished by appealing to gardaí to comply with her directions.

“An Garda Síochána has a long-established and proud tradition of placing our communities at the heart of everything we do. In order to maintain this position it is obligatory that we ensure public safety and protection by providing a guaranteed policing service and maintaining the security of the State at alltimes.

“I am confident of your support in these difficult circumstances and I remain confident that the professionalism, dedication and commitment of the members of An Garda Síochána will prevail in the face of these challenges.”

Meanwhile,  the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors’ 2,080 members are set to go on strike on Friday after rejecting government proposals this evening.

President Antoinette Cunningham said the association was presented with a proposal which was “inequitable”.

The Garda Representative Associations, representing 10,500 rank and file members, is due to attend the Labour Court tomorrow. It has also rejected a government deal that would have boosted its members pay by €2,500 each a year.

“We represent 2,080 sergeants and inspectors and we will not part-negotiate on their behalf,” she said.

 "However, we remain open and available for talks and await more coherent and realistic proposals from the official side. But as of this evening our third day of industrial action is set for Friday 4th November and individual members of this Association are planning on withdrawing their service for a 24-hour period."

The National Executive of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors met at its head office in Phibsboro in Dublin today.

President Antoinette Cunningham would not say if the proposal was the same one that yesterday rejected by the Garda Representative Association's executive committee.

The proposed €2,500 pay boost in the deal would be the result of incorporating a €4,115 rent allowance into their wages, which would boost premium payments and overtime by €1,025 a year. They would also get a payment for holding briefings for 15 minutes before starting work, worth €1,459 a year. In addition, the €4,115 rent allowance would be paid to recruits after being abolished during the financial crisis.

Although AGSI has signed up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, it has accused the government or reneging on its side of the deal and lodged a pay claim for a 16.5pc pay rise.

It is seeking the wage increase, the right to negotiate its members’ pay, and access to the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court. It also wants recognition and implementation of an EU Social Committee’s decision of 2014, which would permit gardai to strike.

The association has accused ministers of suggesting that AGSI has been provided with access to the Workplace Relations Commission after current talks with the government were referred there.

Ms Cunningham said access to the body was on an ad hoc basis and the issue of long-term access has not been resolved.

She said concerns remain that a new Public Sector Commission on Pay will not progress matters in relation to garda pay as it is not a decision-making body.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News