Garda body considers legal action over block on union status

Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors wants to be granted right to strike

Garda recruits during a  passing out parade at the Garda College in Templemore last April. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Garda recruits during a passing out parade at the Garda College in Templemore last April. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Garda sergeants and inspectors are taking legal advice over a possible constitutional challenge to Government plans to restrict their right to become a trade union and strike.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said two reports for Government on the issue of trade union status and the Garda’s power to strike had reached contradictory conclusions.

It said the more recent report, which found against Garda unions and striking rights, was the one that had been accepted by the Government.

AGSI general secretary John Jacob said his association wanted both trade union status and the right to strike.

But if the Government was about to legislative against such changes members of the Garda could not simply be abandoned, he said.

The association was now taking legal advice on the matter.

“If they are pressing ahead with legislation, the least they can do is legislate for a independent review body on (Garda) pay,” he said.

It would be “completely unacceptable” to his members that the Government would deny Garda representative bodies access to all industrial relations remedies.

Mr Jacob said that in a report last year by former Labour Court chairman John Horgan, trade union status and the right to engage in industrial action had been recommended.

And he pointed out that in 2014 the Council of Europe’s committee on social rights ruled Ireland was in breach of the European social charter in denying gardaí the right to the industrial relations mechanisms that Irish civilian workers and other police forces in Europe enjoyed.

These included taking an active part in pay negotiations, striking and organising like a trade union.

Despite those developments, the Government has accepted and plans to legislate for the recommendations of the most recent report.

It was sent to Government last month and was devised by a working group that included senior civil servants, members of Garda management and representatives of the WRC.

The group was established as part of a deal between the Government and gardaí to a avert a series of 24-hour Garda strikes last November.

Its report said the Garda should not be allowed go on strike and new measures should be put in place to stop lower-level industrial action affecting its “essential services”.

The report, which emerged last month, also concluded Garda associations should not be given the status of normal trade unions, as they had requested.

And the force should not be allowed its own method of negotiating pay separate from other public sector workers.

However, Mr Jacob said Garda associations would be “hamstrung” in trying to pursue their members’ entitlements. And the very least the Government should do was to create new independent body on Garda pay to which claims could be taken, he said. This had been done in Britain and Northern Ireland, he said. .

The working group report presented to Government last month called for pay in An Garda Síochána to be determined in a process separate from other public sector pay deals.

“While the Garda associations would prefer a standalone Garda pay commission, this would not be in keeping with public service pay policy and there is no indication it would deliver different outcomes to the Public Service Pay Commission, “ it said.

Gardaí should have the “same access to national pay negotiations and to the pay commission as other public servants”, it added.