Garda sergeants and inspectors expected to back strike

Agsi conference delegates likely to support unprecedented industrial action

Richard Bruton: the Minister for Education’s spokesman said the decision of the ASTI not to co-operate with contingency plans means widespread schools closures are now inevitable. Photograph: Alan Betson

Richard Bruton: the Minister for Education’s spokesman said the decision of the ASTI not to co-operate with contingency plans means widespread schools closures are now inevitable. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Garda sergeants and inspectors are expected to significantly increase industrial relations pressure on the Government today and vote in favour of joining their rank-and-file colleagues in four days of strike action next month.

As the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) holds a special delegate meeting in Athlone, Co Westmeath, increased militancy in the force over pay and conditions looks set to result in the first policing strike in the history of the State.

Sources told The Irish Times that while there were “mixed views” within Agsi about joining the strike by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) on the four Friday’s of November, delegates were expected to support that course of action.

Agsi members will be briefed this morning before the debate turns to what forms of industrial action might be taken to achieve their demand for the return of 16.5 per cent of pay cuts they faced during the recession.

The move comes as the Department of Education acknowledged last night that widespread closures of hundreds of second-level schools were now “inevitable” in the weeks ahead as a result of industrial action by teachers.

The participation of the two Garda groups and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) in industrial action at the same time would represent a significant challenge to the Government’s public service pay policy.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton yesterday said he would seek a meeting with ASTI officials on foot of its decision to stage seven days of strikes and to withdraw from other arrangements from November 7th.

Mr Bruton said the ASTI had refused a request from the Government for sufficient time to recruit personnel to carry out duties such as supervision and substitution.

“It is going to be very difficult, in effect, to keep the schools open,” he said. “The principal is the CEO of the organisation. Even if we get people in, if the CEO is not instructing how they are to be deployed, or what they are to do or to ensure that the children are safe in those times, it will be very difficult to do that.”

Inevitable closures

The union is seeking unconditional talks, in which it would try to secure a deal with the Government without having to sign up to the Lansdowne Road agreement on public service pay.

As well as pay restoration, Agsi is also seeking access to direct negotiations in the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court on future pay deals, as well as recognition and implementation of a 2013 decision of the EU’s Social Committee, which would permit members of An Garda Síochána to strike and participate in trade union action.

Agsi president Antoinette Cunningham said that “all options for industrial action will be looked at as the time for talking has now passed and members are seeking action on pay”.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said she was committed to providing the Garda representative bodies with access to the WRC and Labour Court. The Department of Justice has invited the GRA to further talks on the pay issue tomorrow.