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Gardai strike threatened after pay deal proposal rejected

Published 28/09/2016

The Garda Representative Association, which represents 10,000 rank-and-file officers, said a new pay offer does not go far enough
The Garda Representative Association, which represents 10,000 rank-and-file officers, said a new pay offer does not go far enough

A strike by rank-and-file gardai has been threatened after they voted to take industrial action on four days in November.

Members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) rejected a pay deal on rent allowances for new recruits and a restoration of increments, sparking warnings their hardline stance would lead to a repeat of the "blue flu" of 1998.

A spokeswoman for the 10,000-strong GRA said its special delegate conference had agreed to take action on consecutive Fridays, November 4, 11, 18 and 25.

About 200 members made the decision at a meeting in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where they had discussed the proposed pay and conditions deals.

More than 95% of the GRA members balloted had backed industrial action.

The dispute centres on a Government move to freeze incremental pay increases after the GRA failed to sign up to the Lansdowne Road public-sector pay agreement and also cuts to pay for new entrants.

In a statement, the GRA said the industrial action would be "up to and including a unilateral withdrawal of services" unless it got "substantial and significant progress towards real and tangible increases in our pay".

It is illegal for gardai to formally strike or for representative bodies to order members to walkout.

"Members of the Garda Representative Association are denied the civil rights afforded other workers and citizens," the association said.

"We are denied the civil right to withdraw our labour. There is an implied contract that the civil power will not abuse its police force.

"We have exhausted every channel of industrial relations open to us. Government has taken advantage of our limited rights. Our members feel that we have nowhere left to turn."

It had been hoped that protracted negotiations between the Department of Justice and the GRA had reached agreement last week and created room for a resolution to the pay dispute.

But, following the special delegate meeting, the GRA said its claim for pay restoration had been ignored.

"Gardai do a dangerous, difficult and often thankless job," the organisation said.

"Garda pay has fallen behind others. Our claim for pay restoration has been ignored. Gardai have legitimate grievances - and it is with vocational reluctance that 95% of the GRA membership feel they have no option but to take industrial action."

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the decision was disappointing.

The minister said the deal offered to GRA chiefs last Friday was positive and addressed the concerns raised by the association.

Ms Fitzgerald urged the GRA to consider new negotiations before industrial action.

"Resolution of any outstanding issues of concern to the GRA can only be addressed through engagement between the parties and my department continues to be available to discuss those issues," she said.

"It would be most unfortunate if, rather than engaging further, action were to be contemplated that would not be in the best interests of our communities or An Garda Siochana."

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