Garda strike: GRA to discuss Labour Court proposal

Garda Representative Association executive to consider recommendation in pay dispute

Members of the Garda Representative Association hold a press conference on Thursday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Members of the Garda Representative Association hold a press conference on Thursday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Garda representatives and management from the Garda Representative Association (GRA) met in the Labour Court on Thursday as part of a last-ditch effort to avert Friday’s planned strike.

The court issued a recommendation at about 8.30pm and the GRA’s 31-person executive will then meet at its headquarters in Phibsborough, Dublin, to assess if the proposal is significant enough for it to ask its 10,500 members to not take part in the industrial action.

The GRA executive will decide on Thursday night if the recommendation is enough to suspend Friday’s strike action and whether it will be sent to a ballot of its members.

Speaking after the Labour Court talks, GRA president Ciarán O’Neill said: “At the moment we’re just waiting on the document, we will have it at 8.30pm. We will go through the document and see what happens from there.”

When asked if there was hope the strike may be called off, he said: “I don’t know what’s in the document so I can’t make any speculation.”

With the strike 12 hours away, Mr O’Neill said the contingency plan for tomorrow’s action “is a matter for the Garda Commissioner”.

“A number of units have been asked to make themselves available and that’s the decision made. The Commissioner has to deal with the contingency plans, it’s not a matter for the GRA,” he said.

“The GRA represent the gardaí on the ground. The Labour Court recommendation will be presented to us at 8.30pm this evening and our members will make a decision after that,” he said.

Some 12,500 members of the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) are planning to completely withdraw their service from 7am in the first of four Fridays of action in November in a row over pay.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said on Thursday evening that matters regarding the strike were at a very “sensitive” point.

“There is still time to call off this industrial action,” he said at Stormont, where he was meeting a number of Northern political leaders about Brexit.

“I would point out that Government has responded to a claim that the gardaí have been making for very many years, to make available the arbitration mechanisms - that is the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court - the highest arbitration court in the country,” he said.

Mr Kenny said he “ would strongly urge again, because it may well be that a ballot has to be held of the members of the GRA, that the action tomorrow should be called off” so the Labour Court can do its work.

“I think that would be in the interests of everybody,” he said.

“The Irish public have a particular bond with the Garda Síochána not found in many other countries. I don’t want that bond broken.”

Policing cover

The GRA, which acts for rank-and-file members of the force, has decided to provide significant policing cover when the strike is set to take place.

In a move that considerably eased pressure on the Government and Garda management ahead of the planned action, the GRA urged many of its members to turn up for work after all.

Without the concession, the Republic was facing a policing crisis tomorrow, as senior Garda management was planning to use 300 Garda officers and 950 students with no experience to police the country.

The cover provided is so comprehensive it means the security of the State will not be compromised, that key facilities requiring a Garda presence, such as airports, will be unaffected and that significant policing resources will be available for any policing situation that arises during the day.

However, the GRA’s wider withdrawal of service is still going ahead, including gardaí on the beat.

It is unclear if the other Garda association due to go on strike, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), will follow suit in terms of cover.

‘Back from the brink’

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has appealed to the Garda representative groups not to go ahead with Friday’s strike.

“I would still, at this point, appeal to both organisations to pull back from the brink,’’ she said.

“I would ask them to stand back and suspend tomorrow’s action to allow the time and the space for the Labour Court to continue to do its work.’’

She said the court was the highest arbitration in the land.

“All of the various mechanisms of industrial relations have been made available to An Garda Síochána.”

Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil on Thursday that Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the force had, at all times, been considering contingency plans.

The GRA had said it would co-operate with the commissioner so emergencies could be responded to, she added.

“But let us be clear, if 12,800 gardai go on strike, there is no contingency plan that can replace that number,’’ she said.

“We are talking about essential services, keeping our airports and ports open, we are talking about commerce continuing and responses being made to serious and urgent 999 calls and emergency situations.”

The Courts Service has said that unless people see notices to the contrary - they should assume their court date stands for tomorrow.

Large number of units

An order from Ms O’Sullivan on Tuesday that all Garda members must be present in work was completely ignored, with AGSI and GRA members informing their superior officers they would not be reporting for duty.

However, the GRA has announced it was urging its members attached to a large number of units to turn up for duty.

They include the Emergency Response Unit, Regional Support Unit, Special Detective Unit, Witness Security Programme Unit, VIP protection Unit, and Immigration Units.

Announcing the move, GRA general secretary Pat Ennis said: “The government failed to make effective contingency plans despite five weeks’ warning of withdrawal of services by gardaí. The recent negotiation process was unnecessarily protracted.

“The GRA has engaged throughout in a responsible problem-solving manner. This government has perilously gambled with public safety in its treatment of our members.”