Progress made over securing Garda rights

‘Major breakthrough’ after Europe ruled State in breach of social charter

Garda sergeants and inspectors have made significant progress in their efforts to secure a range of industrial relations rights for gardaí

Garda sergeants and inspectors have made significant progress in their efforts to secure a range of industrial relations rights for gardaí

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 01:00

Garda sergeants and inspectors have made significant progress in their efforts to secure a range of industrial relations rights for gardaí which are currently denied to the force.

The Irish Times understands Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is favourably disposed to granting Garda members access to the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission for the first time in the force’s history.

Political sources suggest the main Garda staff associations will likely be allowed to join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

However, Ms Fitzgerald and her colleagues in Government are against any reforms that would see the associations become full-blown trade unions or have the right to strike. This is despite a recent ruling in Europe that found against the Irish State in these areas and in favour of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

Landmark ruling

In a landmark ruling last month, the Council of Europe’s committee on social rights ruled the Irish State 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.

While the ruling was not binding, AGSI hailed it as a major breakthrough, adding the Government would have to take it into account if it was not to be “embarrassed in Europe”. The complaint was lodged by AGSI through the European Confederation of Police against Ireland’s implementation of the European social charter.

In its formal reply yesterday to the May ruling, the Government was largely non-committal, saying a lot of the issues raised were being examined in the review of the Garda force that arose from the Haddington Road agreement. However, it noted that the committee on social rights had only narrowly ruled against it on the issue of gardaí being banned from striking and there had been strong dissenting voices in the committee.

It added the Garda force was responsible for fighting crime, and for overseeing State security and immigration matters on a 24/7 basis; responsibilities shared across a number of State organisations in some jurisdictions where the police were allowed to strike.

‘Sensitive issue’

“This is a particularly difficult and sensitive issue, including for other member states, and raises complex questions for Ireland from a legal, operational and management perspective,” the Government’s reply said.

“These issues require detailed and considered input from various parties including the Garda Commissioner, the Attorney General and indeed Government itself.”

However, the concessions the Government appears willing to make – relating to access to the Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission and Ictu membership – will likely come in the lifetime of the Coalition, sources said.