Garda bodies reject payroll cuts
Senior gardai will 'vociferously' oppose any proposals to cut the pay bill, the AGSI said.
Public service trade unions met this afternoon to take stock of current talks with Government representatives aimed at securing an extension to the Croke Park agreement.
The Government is seeking to generate savings of some1 billion on its pay and pensions bill over the next three years. It wants to make savings of €300 million this year.
Public service management has suggested that it wants to put in place cuts to pay for high earners, premium payments and increments as well as introducing a longer working day.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors – which is not part of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions – has already withdrawn from the talks process. AGSI said today it would “vociferously” object to any plans to cut the Garda payroll bill by a reported tens of millions of euro over the next three years.
Separately, the Garda Representative Association said its members had told it “loudly and clearly, that they cannot accept any further reduction in garda pay nor can they accept a reduction in the terms and conditions of their employment contracts”.
The central executive committee of the Garda Representative Association is to meet early next week at which the menu of cost-cutting measures and changes to working practices would be outlined. “Gardaí are facing great financial hardship while continuing to provide great dedication and commitment to the community,” said GRA president John Parker.
"Our members cannot pay their loans and mortgages. This is not about choice; pay cuts are not an option."
Speaking today, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said no decision had yet been made on cuts. “In common with every part of the public sector, a range of payroll savings measures are being discussed with associations representing members of An Garda Síochána," he said. “The talks are at an early stage and I would encourage all the Public Service Unions and staff associations to engage constructively in the dialogue being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission. I do not intend to make any public comment on the substance of the talks as I do not believe such comment can constructively contribute to the process.”
Eerlier, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan sought to play down any possible confrontation with Garda unions over payroll cuts, saying such cuts are still a matter for discussion and nothing has yet been finalised.
The management proposals are understood to include cuts in overtime, premium payments and holiday payments. Garda management wants each officer to work an extra hour a day, in line with changes introduced for other public servants. In addition, it was reported the Department of Justice is preparing a proposal on incentivised career breaks with a view to rapidly reducing garda numbers. The savings from such a scheme would not count towards the proposed payroll savings.
But speaking in Charleville in Co Cork this morning, where he addressed a conference on small- and medium-sized enterprises, Mr Noonan said any such proposals were a matter for discussion and would not be imposed unilaterally by the Government.
"What’s happening at the moment right across the public service is that Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] Brendan Howlin is engaged with the unions particularly the public services unions to do a second phase of Croke Park and the target savings over three years are about €1 billion
"And it is in that context that additional savings on the garda budget which are nominated this morning are on the table but they are a matter for discussions - there's nothing categoric about this and it’s not being imposed unilaterally by the Minister," Mr Noonan. "This is a menu of items for discussion at the talks and the talks are proceeding reasonably satisfactory but of course they are a long way from conclusion but there’s good will on both sides but it’s in national interest that we live within our means."
Mr Noonan said that he was encouraged by comments by AGSI general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, John Redmond, which suggested to him that Mr Redmond and his organisation were still willing to engage in discussion despite their withdrawal from talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement.
Mr Redmond had earlier said his members would “absolutely” oppose plans to cut the payroll bill and to increase the working day. He did not rule out industrial action.
“When we were given these proposals we were shocked by the complexity and the wide-ranging proposals which meant nothing except cuts for our members,” Mr Redmond said. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that as far back as 2008 and 2009, his members had among the first who had “committed to putting our shoulders to the wheel” and to play their part as far as necessary provided everybody else did the same thing”.
Asked if his members were saying “no more” to cuts, Mr Redmond said: “Absolutely. Our members have told us that they can’t take any more. They’ve taken 25 per cent cuts – this represents a 7 per cent cut across the board and our members are at the pin of their collar to pay their bills at the moment.”
Mr Redmond said his members had just nine months ago changed from working an eight-hour day to a 10-hour day. Most of those officers had to buy homes away from the main centres where they worked, and were also commuting for up to two or three hours a day, he said. They also worked in the middle of the night and at times that people in “regular jobs” were relaxing in their homes.
Mr Redmond said he had no doubt there were lots of savings that could be made across many areas of the public service generally. His organisation had always felt the €80 million Garda overtime budget could be cut and should be looked at, he said. “Our members don’t have an option when it comes to overtime. You don’t just walk in and decide you want to come into work on overtime. You are told that you are needed to carry out particular duties on overtime.”
On the Taoiseach’s statement that the Government would, if necessary, legislate to save the money, Mr Redmond said:
“We are absolutely against what the Taoiseach says about legislation. I think it’s unfair and disingenuous for the Taoiseach to shake a big stick over our members who have given so much.”
He said it would be in breach of the existing Croke Park agreement if the Government sought to unilaterally change the terms his members had signed up to.
There was nothing his members could do to prevent legislation, but they would “not be happy” and “will make their feelings known and known very vociferously to government if that should take place”, Mr Redmond said. “Absolutely we will oppose it, of course we will.”
Asked if this would include industrial action, he said: “Perhaps.”