Coalition anger at tactics used by Garda association
There is deep anger in Government at the militant tactics adopted by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in an effort to scuttle talks on the extension of the Croke Park agreement.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter yesterday rebuked the GRA for picketing the venue where talks between the Government and union leaders were taking place.
Mr Kenny called on the GRA to return to the talks, which he said were critical for the Republic’s future.
“The place to be is at the table and the opportunity is there for the GRA to go back in there and to discuss in a rational and a professional manner the concerns and the anxieties that they might have,” he said after an event in Sandyford, Co Dublin.
Mr Shatter said in a statement it was “unfortunate” that members of the GRA executive had chosen to protest outside Lansdowne House in Dublin, where discussions on an extension to the agreement are taking place.
“It is also unfortunate that they have chosen not to participate in the talks being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission instead of doing what every other public sector representative body is doing, namely representing the best interests of their members by seeking to influence the shape of the outcome through constructive engagement in the process,” he said.
The GRA protest involved about 30 rank-and-file gardaí who carried placards that read “1913 Lockout: 2013 Sellout”; “Come Out, Not Sellout”; “Betrayed by Unions, Shattered by Cuts.”
The GRA action was a surprise and highlighted a major rift between gardaí and the trade unions in the talks, as well as the hostility to the Minister, in whom they have voted no confidence.
The GRA abandoned the talks on the basis that it would not discuss any proposals that involved cuts to its members’ pay and allowances.
However, Government sources were adamant last night that in the event that agreement is not reached on a deal, they remain committed to saving €170 million by tackling premium payments for frontline public servants rather than legislating for an across the board pay cut that would impact on the lower paid.
The talks on extending the Croke Park agreement will intensify over the coming days ahead of a deadline of next Thursday set by the Cabinet.
Key issues such as the proposed pay cut for high earners in the public service, the future of increments, additional hours of work being sought by management and cuts in premium payments are still being discussed between a small group of negotiators on both sides at a central level.
In the education sector, the Government is seeking to effectively remove all existing supervision and substitution payments from teachers – these currently cost about €120 million. Some of the money saved could go towards addressing the lower salaries currently paid to newly appointed teachers.
Meanwhile, the State-owned Bus Éireann has warned staff that if they take industrial they may have no jobs to return to when it is over. The unions are considering Labour Court recommendations aimed at dealing with the serious financial situation at the company.
In a letter to employees yesterday, company chief executive Martin Nolan said: “Unlike those directly employed in the public and civil service that would have jobs to return to after any industrial action, we may not...”.