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Only one third of gardai vote to take action over cut in pay

Just one in three rank and file gardai have voted in favour of industrial action -- after less than half of officers balloted declined to send back a GRA questionnaire.

The majority of those who did return their papers have voted in favour of limited industrial action.

The Garda Representative Agency (GRA) has interpreted the result as a strong mandate from its membership that it should take industrial action over public sector pay cuts.

There are 11,600 rank and file gardai in the force but only 5,540 members took part in the fact-finding ballot. Of those, only 3,622 supported taking limited action -- short of 'blue flu'. A final decision on whether the force will take action will be taken at the GRA's annual conference in Limerick on April 27, meaning any vote at that meeting may be more influential than the results of the questionnaire.

Potential action by officers could see them refuse to use their personal mobile phones, their laptops or fail to issue so-called discretionary fines, such as road traffic offences. They may also refuse to sign passports, or cooperate with rostering changes.

Refusing to work overtime is not a viable option, sources said, as it would hit members' pay packets. The policy will be determined at the Limerick conference.

Some 65.4pc (3,622) of the 5,540 who responded voted in favour of taking action without a complete withdrawal of services, with the nature of any such action to be decided by the central executive committee of the GRA.

Positive

Only 7.2pc (401) voted in favour of taking no action.

Another 18.4pc (1,020) voted in favour of an all-out strike and 8.8pc (490) were in favour of exploring other proposals.

GRA general secretary PJ Stone described the results as "positive" despite the low turnout.

When asked about the turnout figures, Mr Stone suggested that members may have been concerned by comments made by Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern about breaches of the law and possible criminal proceedings.

He said that members were not intimidated during the voting process.

Mr Stone revealed he would be seeking legal advice on how to proceed with a constitutional challenge to allow the GRA to engage in public sector pay talks. The GRA has not been involved in such talks, as it is not recognised as a trade union.

"The Government cannot continue to ignore us," he said. "They should not push us too far. We must look at all the options available to us and we will be doing that in the coming weeks."

He ruled out another 'blue flu', when gardai took sick leave in an organised campaign, but said that the force would take a collective action which would not threaten the safety and security of the public.

Struggling

He said the strong support for some kind of industrial action was in response to "draconian pay cuts" imposed on members, many of whom, he said, are struggling with their bills and mortgages.

The options available to the GRA are limited and many would have a financial impact on already struggling members.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern described any garda attempts to strike as illegal and "an affront to democracy" before Christmas and the Department of Justice yesterday revealed that he was sticking to that stance.

hnews@herald.ie


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