Garda management is prepared to order members to work overtime if required and has assured the Government the ongoing industrial dispute will not have any major impact on frontline policing.
From Tuesday, members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents 11,000 members of the near 14,000-strong force, will refuse to undertake voluntary overtime.
This will continue every Tuesday until November 10th, when members will withdraw service entirely for the day, a strike in all but name.
The GRA is resisting plans by Commissioner Drew Harris to revert to a pre-pandemic rostering system on November 6th. The association maintains the old roster will negatively impact policing services and means less time off and allowances for members.
Mr Harris’s position is the Covid-19 roster is too expensive and not responsive enough to meet the needs of communities.
Senior gardaí have briefed the Government the force will be able to provide a full policing service over the next month, including on budget day next Tuesday, when large-scale protests are expected outside Leinster House, and on Halloween, which also falls on a Tuesday.
Management has said it has several ways to ensure adequate numbers of gardaí are on duty, including, as a last resort, ordering members to work overtime.
However, sources said garda management is reluctant to take such a step as it would inevitably worsen tensions and escalate the dispute.
Management may also reassign gardaí from other areas to fill gaps. Gardaí scheduled to do investigative or administrative work may be diverted into frontline roles as the need arises.
Sources said management also hopes some GRA members will continue to undertake overtime duties out of financial necessity, defying the wishes of the association.
“We always hear about how many gardaí are financially dependent on overtime so there will be some who will see no option but to continue to work it,” said a senior source.
“Despite the fact that there will be challenges in the weeks ahead, the Garda Commissioner has assured me that there will still be a full complement of gardaí. There will be enough members to continue doing the work that they do every day,” Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said on Monday.
However, it is not clear how Garda management will be able to provide a policing service on November 10th, if the GRA go through with its threatened withdrawal of service.
There was little sign on Monday night of any last-minute resolution to the dispute. The GRA has stated the Commissioner must withdraw the November 6th deadline before negotiations can continue. The Commissioner has said he cannot wait any longer to implement the roster.
Ms McEntee said there is still time to resolve the dispute. “There are meetings happening this week so it’s not right to say that nobody’s engaging and nobody’s talking,” she said.
Mr Harris will meet separately this week with the Garda Representative Association, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Superintendents and the Chief Superintendents.
Ms McEntee said the shared agenda was to establish an agreeable rostering system separate from the current Covid roster and previous rosters.
The GRA has written to the Minister urging her to intervene in the dispute. However, she has said she has no plans to direct the Commissioner to delay the deadline.
“We’ve moved away from that type of policing, we should never be in a situation where the Minister of the day is telling gardaí where and when and how they should be working. It’s not something that should be done,” she said.
Brendan O’Connor of the Garda Representative Association earlier on Monday said his organisation is committed to finding “a resolution to this impasse”, specifying that a proposed interim roster “doesn’t work” according to an independent analysis.