Gardaí win the right to strike and participate in unions

Council of Europe finds Government position violates international agreement

The European Committee of Social Rights ruling means gardaí will now be able to strike and negotiate pay. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The European Committee of Social Rights ruling means gardaí will now be able to strike and negotiate pay. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Sat, May 17, 2014, 19:48

Gardaí have won the right to strike in a landmark decision handed down by the Council of Europe.

The Council’s European Committee of Social Rights upheld a complaint lodged by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors ( AGSI) over the Government ban on their participation in trade union action.

The prohibition on strike action by gardaí was found to violate an international agreement signed by the Government. The decision means gardaí will now be able to strike, negotiate pay and engage in union action.

AGSI general secretary John Redmond said the decision was a “defining moment in our history and a significant decision for our future”.

Mr Redmond said that the force has for years pointed out the “inadequacies” of the conciliation and arbitration scheme for resolving concerns but their arguments were never accepted by the Government.

“AGSI was ultimately left with no alternative but to pursue the matter at a European level,” he said.

He said the AGSI hopes it will never have to use its newly acquired right to strike in pursuit of the rights and entitlements of its members. He urged the Government to work quickly to agree mechanisms which will give the AGSI access to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today welcomed the decision. “There is a common misunderstanding that international law requires countries to prohibit their police forces from taking part in trade union action,” said the organisation’s legal affairs officer Esther Lynch.

“As this Determination shows, the opposite is the case. States can only restrict or deny rights in exceptional situations and where the state can give concrete examples of why the restrictions are ‘justified’ ‘necessary’, ‘appropriate’ and ‘proportionate’. Blanket bans, such as apply in Ireland, represent a violation of rights.”

She added: “While the ruling specifically refers to the situation of the AGSI it has implications for all ranks of Garda and the four police representative associations here.”