Garda bodies to recommend deal to maintain pay

GRA and Agsi to ballot members on LRC brokered agreement

The GRA and the Agsi both said the new terms deliver the level of savings required by the State from the Garda vote without their members incurring any reduction in pay and allowances. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The GRA and the Agsi both said the new terms deliver the level of savings required by the State from the Garda vote without their members incurring any reduction in pay and allowances. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Tue, May 14, 2013, 17:38

The two associations representing rank and file gardaí, and sergeants and inspectors are to ballot their members on a new pay-preserving deal agreed at the Labour Relations Commission and will recommend they accept the deal.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of the Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) both said the new terms deliver the level of savings required by the State from the Garda vote without their members incurring any reduction in pay and allowances.

The agreement involves members of the force working an additional 30 hours per year, the equivalent of three shifts, for no remuneration.

Agsi general secretary John Redmond said his 2,000 members at sergeant and inspector rank would be balloted within the next three weeks. He added that subject to a number of points being clarified, the association would be recommending its members accept the deal. “It involves no pay and allowances being cut,” he said.

“We told the (Government) side when the last talks were underway on the Croke Park extension that we had ways of finding the savings without cutting pay and allowances. They didn’t list to us then but they have now at the LRC.”

The GRA, which represents 11,200 rank and file gardaí in a total force of 13,400, said its ballot would likely take six weeks to complete. Officials from the association “cautiously welcomed” the agreement reached at the LRC and are recommending their members accept it. It said in a statement that unsocial hours allowances had not been cut.

While Garda numbers and resourcing had been eroded in recent years, the proposals agreed by the LRC would not put pressure on the State’s policing service, which had been “transformed” by recent rostering changes. It believed nothing agreed at the LRC would compromise the safety of its members or the public, but would result in direct savings for the State in the provision of extra man hours at a time when recruitment was frozen.

GRA general secretary PJ Stone said: “This cannot be portrayed as an achievement, but under the circumstances we believe a fair and balanced compromise has been reached - and this is a testament to direct negotiations.”

“We understand this to be a precedent mechanism for any future negotiations; and can be seen as recognition of our loyalty to the people of Ireland. ”

Of the additional 30 hours to be worked by each Garda member per year under the new deal, ten hours will be accounted for by members working a free hour at the start or end of a shift ten times per year. A further ten hours will be delivered by Garda members working a free full shift once per year, to be agreed with the management at local level.

And the third ten-hour block will also come in the form of members working a free shift, though the time and nature of that shift will be decided by Garda management rather than in consultation with or prior arrangement with the individual Garda member.

That final part of the package will negate the need for Garda overtime, with budgets having been cut from tens of millions annually to virtually nothing in most parts of the country. Garda management in local divisions could effectively save up the free overtime shifts of their charges and use them in a block to police a major event such as St Patrick’s Day for no cost.

Both the GRA and Agsi said the talks just concluded at the LRC represented the first time that their associations were able to negotiate directly on pay and conditions. Because gardaí are prohibited from striking, bodies like the GRA and Agsi are representative associations rather than unions.

That means while they have been briefed on the progress of talks between Government officials and unions on public sector pay and conditions in the past, they have never had a seat at the negotiating table. Both believe a precedent has been set for them to be granted an direct role in future pay talks.