Gardaí back industrial action over pay and conditions

GRA vote shows 95% so dissatisfied they would consider some form of industrial action

A file image showing new gardai at Templemore.  A Garda Representative Association (GRA) ballot of its members shows 95 per cent of those who voted are so dissatisfied with their pay and conditions they would consider some form of industrial action. Photograph: The Irish Times

A file image showing new gardai at Templemore. A Garda Representative Association (GRA) ballot of its members shows 95 per cent of those who voted are so dissatisfied with their pay and conditions they would consider some form of industrial action. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Rank and file gardaí have overwhelmingly voiced their support for considering industrial action over their pay and conditions.

The results of a ballot of Garda Representative Association (GRA) members shows 95 per cent of those who voted are so dissatisfied with their pay and conditions they would consider some form of industrial action.

The result increases pressure on the Government to ensure a proposed new deal on pay and conditions agreed late last week and currently being considered by the GRA is accepted and implemented as quickly as possible.

The GRA represents 10,500 rank and file gardaí and 66 per cent of those entitled to vote in the ballot did so.

Of those, 95.3 per cent voted in the affirmative and 4.7 per cent negative.

Garda members are banned from joining a union or going on strike. The GRA is a representative body, not a union.

While gardaí would be breaking the law going on strike, they could engage in various actions - such as refusing to work overtime or use their personal phones and computers for work purposes - and cause disruption to the policing service.

In 1998 members of the force rang in sick in a form of industrial action that became known as ‘blue flu’.

However, that was regarded as very damaging to the force’s reputation and a repeat is highly unlikely.

The results of the GRA vote released this morning result a ballot that was arranged and commenced long before last week’s apparent breakthrough.

Despite reports to the contrary, the ballot did not ask gardaí whether they were in favour of industrial action.

Instead, it sought to gauge whether the level of anger over pay and conditions was strong enough and widespread enough to suggest members may have an appetite for industrial action.

The ballot question asked: “Are you so dissatisfied with your current pay and conditions that you are willing to take part in a day or days of industrial action?”

If the GRA wanted to go ahead with industrial action, the association’s national executive would decide what form that action would take, when it would happen and for how long.

And it would have to go back to its members for another ballot, or perhaps consultation in the form of regional meetings, before those proposals became policy and industrial action took place.

The GRA has previously clarified that the ballot that has now been completed was for guidance purposes and to assess the levels of militancy and anger among its members.

GRA president Ciaran O’Neill reiterated that point on Tuesday.

“We surveyed our members to find out if there is an appetite for industrial action. The reason for this is because our members have done everything that was asked of them, and the reluctance of the Government to reward our patience has driven us towards this move.

“It is not surprising to hear that our members are willing to take some form of industrial action to see their pay and conditions restored.”

He said the agreement drawn up last week following negotiations with the Department of Justice was discussed by the GRA’s central executive committee yesterday. It would be further considered at a special delegate conference tomorrow.

Under the agreement reached last week rank-and-file gardaí will have to make a number of commitments in exchange for the restoration of more than €4,000 in rent allowance, under the terms of the draft pay deal.

They include a commitment to the terms of the Lansdowne Road pay agreement and continued co-operation with various ongoing initiatives, such as the introduction of victim support offices and the Armed Response Unit in Dublin.

A re-alignment of the National Support Services; the introduction of a restructured training programme for new entrants; a review of the Garda employee assistance service, and consultation. and engagement with the programme of district amalgamation and rationalisation of Garda stations are also listed as conditions.

A verification system to monitor co-operation and implementation of these conditions is allowed for.

Crucially, the draft agreement - finalised by the GRA and the Department of Justice late on Friday - recognises the GRA’s “long-standing aim” of achieving a 39-hour work week for rank-and-file members.