Garda strike row still hangs in balance despite AGSI pay deal support
Garda Representative Association has yet to make a decision on any recommendation
GRA general secretary Pat Ennis won a confidence vote by 25 votes to 16 yesterday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The prospects for Garda members voting to accept a pay deal that would end their dispute with the Government remain unclear, despite one of the representative bodies that had threatened strike action urging its members to vote to accept it.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), after a two-day executive meeting in Dublin, said it had decided to recommended to its 2,080 members that they accept the deal in a ballot.
However, the executive of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents about 10,500 rank and file gardaí, has yet to make a decision on any recommendation.
The associations’ planned withdrawal of service, a strike in all but name, was averted last week when the Labour Court recommended a package of additional payments for gardaí without an increase in core pay.
The deal is worth an estimated €40 million a year but the Government has said funding for it must come from the existing justice budget. This has created concern in the Garda that overtime may be affected.
AGSI and the GRA agreed to call off last week’s one-day strike and three further strike days this month, and to put the Labour Court deal to their members in separate ballots.
Government sources are much more confident about AGSI members accepting the deal than they are about the GRA members, who are not as well paid.
The GRA can decide to recommend to its members they either accept or reject the deal, or it may opt to make no recommendation and allow the ballot to take its course. Yesterday the association’s general secretary, Pat Ennis, won a confidence vote at a meeting of the association’s executive by 25 votes to 16. The motion of no confidence in him was tabled after some members of the executive were unhappy at how the GRA handled the run-up to last Friday’s threatened strike and Mr Ennis became the focus of some of their anger.
Last Thursday, Garda management was struggling to draw up a contingency plan to cope with the following day’s strike. Five leading GRA negotiators agreed to a management request that about 800 gardaí attached to key areas of the force would not withdraw their services.
But others on the executive have said such a request had been rejected three times in the previous weeks. They were angry at what some of them saw as a “solo run” by the leadership.
They believed the concession should not have been made and that it took the pressure off Garda management and the Government at the key moment on the eve of the strike.
While Mr Ennis survived the confidence motion, many in the GRA believe the controversy may influence members to reject the Labour Court deal and hold out for a better offer.
Even if the association’s executive follows the AGSI’s lead and recommends that its members vote to accept the deal, they may still reject it.