Commissioner supports call by gardaí for independent body to review pay

Gardaí claim core pay neglected while allowances increased

 


Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has supported a call by rank-and-file gardaí for the establishment of a special commission to make recommendations on Garda pay.

The Garda Representative Association, which represents 11,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a force of 13,400, wants an independent commission to examine if core Garda pay has been neglected while allowances have been increased.

Many members believe this has been the case and say that as a result of the State reducing allowances across the public sector, the earnings of members of the Garda have been hit much harder than other workers in the public sector.

Mr Callinan said at the association’s annual conference in Westport, Co Mayo, yesterday that he believed the current climate represented a good opportunity for Garda remuneration to be examined.

He said such a process had worked in the 1970s with the Conroy and Ryan commissions. “It has been the case over many, many years that allowances have been introduced as part of the Garda pay at a time when successive governments couldn’t provide an increase in pay.

“And I think that’s a given; that’s accepted and understood by everybody. So there is a very real opportunity here for somebody to look at what is happening on the pay area of An Garda Síochána. ”

Not invited
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was not invited to the conference after the association voted no confidence in him in recent weeks. Association general secretary PJ Stone said members of the Garda were a unique group of workers in that they were not permitted to form a union to campaign on or negotiate on pay and conditions. He believed gardaí were not dissimilar to judges in that regard and need an independent commission on pay and conditions.

Garda Jim Carmody from the Limerick division told delegates that while the conciliation and arbitration process could review pay and conditions, he believed the Government or Garda management had not engaged with this process in relation to recent cuts in pay and allowances. If an agreement was reached in that forum but was not implemented, it should be dealt with by an independent commission process.

“We deserve to have our voices heard and to be involved in meaningful negotiations about our pay and conditions.”

He added that allowances represented about 21 per cent of gross pay, and that the job of a garda could not be done properly without incurring these allowances. Any reduction in pay or allowances, or both, would have a serious impact on gardaí who were already struggling financially.

Garda Pat O’Sullivan from the Cork West division said members were in such financial hardship that a Garda benevolent fund established in the 1970s to assist members who needed financial aid because of serious illness, was now helping gardaí pay basic bills like gas bills.

He said the fund had previously assisted about 100 members per year but this had now jumped to almost 200 per annum and the fund had been forced to engage a financial adviser to help gardaí.

The association is also campaigning for a separate policing authority which would be responsible for dictating policing policies including handling promotions to the rank of superintendent and higher currently approved by Government.

Many gardaí believe the Government’s presiding over promotions represents political interference in policing and means senior officers do not feel free to speak out, especially when they should be calling on Government for additional resources.

However, Mr Callinan insisted that while the Government appointed senior officers, Mr Shatter had never “crossed the Rubicon” in trying to interfere with policing matters.

He did not feel a policing authority was needed despite such agencies existing in Britain and Northern Ireland.