Young bloods gunning for Garda protest action


QHow likely is another “blue flu”-style industrial action

When Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan spoke to the media at a Garda Reserve passing out ceremony yesterday, both were clearly aware tensions within An Garda Síochána were ratcheting up rapidly.

The national executive of the Garda Representative Association, which represents 11,200 Garda members in a 13,400-strong force, had just voted a motion of no-confidence in Shatter. While the commissioner escaped that embarrassment, rank-and-file gardaí have voted no confidence in him at local GRA meetings around the State in the past fortnight.

Many of those local meetings have been stormy, with votes in favour of industrial action, up to and including the so-called blue flu seen in 1998, when gardaí rang in sick for a day in a dispute over pay and conditions.

As members of the Garda take an oath to serve the Republic, they are banned from taking industrial action. Part of that oath is to remain apolitical, which means they cannot join a political party and cannot attach themselves to any causes, including being a member of any trade union.

All of the groups that represent gardaí are representative bodies, not unions.

The longstanding image of neutrality of the force is being put under pressure at this time of recession.

Reduced salaries

After five years in which their reduced salaries have been hit hard by taxes and levies, their allowances cut and once-lucrative overtime payments cut to nothing, there are now propo- sals for a further €60 million in cuts from Garda spending.

It is the proposal that Garda pay and allowances be cut further to achieve this that has caused so much anger.

The force expanded rapidly in the years leading to the economic collapse in 2007- 2008, with the result that 60 per cent of serving gardaí are in their 20s or early 30s, with less than 10 years of service. Many bought houses in the expectation that their salary, allowances and overtime would always be generous.

Many GRA leaders fear a second “blue flu” would put them back years in terms of their standing in society and would achieve nothing.

However, with a young and angry membership shouting loud for a harder line to be taken, the GRA may well need to come up with creative protest ideas short of “blue flu” but that represent a genuine disruption of service.