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Pensions dock proposal potentially illegal, garda representatives warn

Garda representatives have warned that a proposal to dock pensions if officers go on strike is potentially illegal.

The hard-line reform was proposed in a report for the Government on pay, industrial relations and union rights for the force.

If adopted it would lead to gardai losing five years of pension entitlements if they take part in walk-outs or work stoppages.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) branded the recommendations by John Horgan, a former chairman of the Labour Court, as a missed opportunity, a contradiction and possibly breaking the law.

The organisation's president Antoinette Cunningham said the pu nitive measure is an emotional knee-jerk reaction to the threat of a strike.

"The main recommendation is around penalties for gardai if strike action is taken in the future. But surely, the framework to prevent threatened strike is what the report should have dealt with and not penalties based on the lack of clear industrial relations mechanisms," she said.

"We expected a root and branch review but instead it seems this was a rushed report which failed to address the key elements of the terms of reference."

Mr Horgan's report calculated that the average pay for a garda last year was 63,450 euro.

But it said the total value of a pay packet rises to more than 100,000 euro if the money needed for pensions contributions is taken into account.

Other recommendations were that the AGSI and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) should become fully registered trade unions and given the right to engage in collective bargaining with management.

It also said they should have access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

But the report said the unions should then be funded entirely through membership subscription.

Mr Horgan was finalising his report at the height of pay disputes between the rank-and-file gardai and the Government and threatened strikes.

GRA president Ciaran O'Neill said Irish police should be afforded the same rights as forces in Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand.

"We are still awaiting trade union status with the associated civil rights including full collective bargaining, which includes the freedom to strike," he said.

"The current generation of gardai are aware of international ideas and has shown an increased level of discontent towards the draconian and unnecessary impediments to the civil rights of the membership.

"For gardai to be afforded equal status with other public servants in the upcoming Public Service Pay Commission this must include rights of affiliation and the attendant freedom to withdraw labour."

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the pay dispute and strike threat made it imperative that new and better ways of doing business are found.

The AGSI, which represents about 2,100 officers, also said the Horgan review failed to bring a resolution to industrial relations confusion for gardai or forensically examine pay and allowances..

It also said pay figures were grossly distorted by the inclusion of overtime.

The GRA said average pay rates were skewed by the fall in numbers in the force in the last eight years.

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