Labour Court recommendation on Garda strike issued tomorrow

Coveney says Cabinet not given details of contingency plan for industrial action

Antoinette Cunningham, president of the AGSI and John Jacob general secretary arriving at the Labour Court for pay talks at Lansdowne House. . Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Antoinette Cunningham, president of the AGSI and John Jacob general secretary arriving at the Labour Court for pay talks at Lansdowne House. . Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

The Labour Court will not issue its recommendation aimed at resolving Friday’s strike action until tomorrow, it has emerged.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has declined to call off the planned strike action on Friday after talks at the Labour Court ended .

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which represents some 2,000 gardai, is holding talks at the Labour Court on Thursday morning. AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said she had no comment to make on the way into the meeting.

Meanwhile Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he was not aware of the details of contingency plans for the planned Garda industrial action on Friday.

He told RTE’s Morning Ireland that the Cabinet had not been given details and that the Garda Commissioner would communicate directly with the public if necessary.

“The Commissioner has been working on contingency plans. We’re still hoping that the industrial action can be prevented.

“We’ve been told that there is no way to replace 12,800 gardai. The focus will be on tackling serious incidents and to ensure that any serious crimes can be tackled.”

Pressure has increased on the Government to significantly improve a package of pay-related concessions made to rank-and-file gardaí to avert an unprecedented strike on Friday.

GRA talks at the Labour Court in Dublin ended after midnight on Thursday . The association represents some 10,500 of the 12,500 gardaí due to withdraw their service this and every Friday in November.

In a statement, GRA president Ciarán O’Neill said a “substantial” increase to the Government’s pay offer was required but he declined to say how much.

He said that when he spoke of a substantial increase, he “meant a substantial increase”. The initial offer to the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) was valued at about €30 million and focused on payment for a 15-minute period in which officers are briefed in advance of a new shift, worth some €1,450 extra per year, and the restoration of a €4,000 rent allowance for gardaí recruited after 2011.

It is understood the Garda organisations are keen that any revised offer would provide a pay increase and also make additional money available to those who do not receive premium payments .

“We articulated the difficulties and we are now awaiting the decision of the Labour Court,” he said.

Knock-on claims

Government sources said there could be some movement around “the edges” of previous proposals but said any further deals must remain within the confines of the Lansdowne Road deal on public service pay. It is concerned that offering concessions that would be viewed as going outside the agreement would lead to series of knock-on claims from other groups.

The GRA has agreed to a Labour Court request to put any recommendation coming out of the talks to its members in a ballot. Its 31-man executive rather than members rejected the pay offer earlier this week.

Separately, officials from AGSI, which represents some 2,000 gardai are due to attend the Labour Court today.

Permanent access

Earlier yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to avert the strike by offering the associations permanent access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

He had asked Attorney General Máire Whelan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to move as quickly as possible to bring forward the heads of the legislation required.

Mr Kenny’s pledge was welcomed by AGSI, which claimed it as “a victory”. However, the GRA statement last night clearly underlined that remuneration was being placed at the centre of any resolution to the dispute and AGSI was expected to adopt a similar position today.

It emerged late last night that an order issued by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan O’Sullivan on Tuesday telling all Garda members that they must make themselves available for duty tomorrow was being ignored, with AGSI and GRA members telling their senior officers locally they would not be coming in.

A contingency policing plan involving 300 officers at the rank of superintendent and higher and about 1,000 student and probationer gardaí was being drawn up. This would be bolstered by 200 members in the ERU in Dublin and Regional Support Units outside the capital.