GRA pulls out of Croke Park talks

PJ Stone, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association.

PJ Stone, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

The organisation representing rank and file gardaí has become the second Garda body to withdraw from talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said its central executive had rejected cost saving proposals put forward by Government representatives in the talks as they involved a cut in Garda wages.

The Department of Justice had sought to generate savings of €60 million in the garda pay and pensions bill as part of an overall Government plan to save up to €1 billion across the public service.

The GRA said its membership had told it “they cannot accept any further reduction in garda pay nor can they accept a reduction in the terms and conditions of their employment”.

“The Government has presented a briefing document of cost cutting measures and changes to working practices that includes pay cuts. The central executive committee of the GRA has rejected all such proposals that include a cut in garda wages, and will not participate in any process that proposes such cuts.

“However, the Association will examine any revised proposals and cost-saving measures that do not impact on pay or hours worked. We will make our position known on any further proposals at that time.”

The GRA said garda pay was protected under the current Croke Park agreement – which runs until 2014 – and that “any attempt to renege on this will be challenged”.

“Gardaí are facing great financial hardship while continuing to provide great dedication and commitment to the community. Our members cannot pay their loans and mortgages. Pay cuts are not an option.”

GRA president John Parker did not comment on suggestions that gardaí would consider industrial action or engage in a “blue flu” – in which large numbers would call in sick on the same day – if the Government pressed ahead with cuts to earnings.

Earlier, the general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) John Redmond said if the Minister for Justice wanted his organisation to go back into talks he should withdraw his proposals for cuts and start from a clean sheet.

Mr Redmond described management proposals to save €60 million as part of an extension to the Croke Park agreement as disastrous.

He said the proposals as “swathing cuts to pay and allowances”.

Mr Redmond said his members had already made significant concessions and were not willing to give any more.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he hoped Garda sergeants and inspectors would reconsider their decision to withdraw from the talks.

“I would hope the AGSI would reconsider the position they have stated,’’ said Mr Shatter.

The Minister said proposals were put on the table for discussion and the way to influence them was by engaging with them.

Mr Shatter said he would not engage in discussions relating to the talks in public.

“These are talks taking place to deal with a broad range of issues in the public sector,’’ he added. “They are being led by Minister Brendan Howlin’s department and I would hope that all the different organisations and groups will participate in the talks that are taking place.’’

Unions representing gardaí, nurses and prison officers – the 24/7 alliance – said over the weekend the proposals were concentrated on reductions in overtime, shift premiums and Sunday allowances, which formed a "significant part" of the earnings of front-line staff and reflected the unsocial nature of their work.

"The focus to date has, in our view, been unfairly targeted on allowances that are paid for attendance outside of normal working hours by staff in vital public services such as health and justice," said Dave Hughes, deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

"In our view the talks have no future unless the focus moves away from the unfair targeting of such key staff."

The alliance, which represents front-line emergency and essential services staff, said in addition to the pension-related levy and the pay cut its members had seen "massive" reductions in numbers and changes to rosters while nurses and midwives had experienced the closure and reconfiguration of hospital wards.

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