Striking gardaí should lose pension benefits, says pay report

Average remuneration for gardaí ‘in region of €100,000’ when pensions included

Report estimates that, if the value of the cost of the provision of pensions is taken into accout, total remuneration for gardaí would be in excess of €100,000. Photograph: David Sleator

Report estimates that, if the value of the cost of the provision of pensions is taken into accout, total remuneration for gardaí would be in excess of €100,000. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Any garda who engages in strike action should lose their right to build up their pension entitlements for five years, a major new report on pay and industrial relations in An Garda Síochána has recommended.

The report by former chairman of the Labour Court John Horgan says that industrial relations in An Garda Síochána is “effectively broken”, and significant reforms are needed.

The report comes just weeks after gardaí went to the brink of an unprecedented strike in a bid to improve their pay and conditions.

The report says that the average pay for gardaí across the force last year was €63,450.

However it says if the value of the cost of the provision of pensions was taken into account, total remuneration for gardaí would be in excess of €100,000.

In his report, Mr Horgan recommends that the existing garda representative organisations should become registered trade unions and be permitted to engage in collective bargaining with garda management.

He says that if there is no agreement gardaí should have access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

The report says strikes should not happen in a police force.

“I am therefore suggesting that an automatic sanction should be applied to any member of An Garda Síochána who engages in industrial action. This would of course include ‘blue flu’ and any other measure designed to put pressure on management of An Garda Síochána or the Government.”

The report recognises that the proposed loss of pension accrual for gardaí who went on strike would be “unprecedented” and would be resisted by members of the force.

However, it contends that the proposal is “reasonable” given that in future gardaí would have full access to the State’s industrial relations machinery to resolve any issues.

The report argues that the criminal law should have no role to play in industrial relations other than to preserve public order. It also argues against the use of the garda disciplinary code to prevent industrial action.

“Strikes should not happen in the police force, especially as this is a monopoly service and the national security service is part of the police service.

“It was until recently understood or assumed that as a ‘disciplined force’ the members of An Garda Síochána could not legally go on strike and would obey the law in that regard. Recent events have proven this wrong.”

The report also maintains that the existing Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Segeants and Inspectors (AGSI) are not appropriately structured or governed.

The report found that, when new recruits were excluded, 10 per cent of gardaí earned more than €74,000; while 10 per cent of gardaí earned less than €54,000.

For rank and file gardaí (of which there were 9,791), the average pay was €63,327.

For sergeants (of which there were 1,922) the average was €72,690.

For inspectors (of which there were 317), the average was € 85,423.

For superintendents (of which there were 162), the average was €87,699.

For chief superintendents (of which there were 44), the average was €101,161.

AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said it was regrettable Mr Horgan did not conduct “an in depth, forensic” analysis of the issue of garda pay.

She said it had been irresponsible of him to publish what he admitted on the RTÉ Today with Sean O’Rourke show were “rough and ready calculations” which the AGSI would contest.

Ms Cunningham said the garda pay rates being quoted were based on overtime which she described as “subjective” and a “necessary evil”.

She added the association would be exploring the possibility of seeking full trade union status at their conference next April.

“We don’t disregard that suggestion but we have to do a piece of research,” she said.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Horgan said gardaí should accept what the Labour Relations Commission recommends and “that should be the end of the matter”.

However, “the normal checks and balances of industrial relations don’t apply to gardaí. The consequence of their actions are not felt by an employer but by the public.

“A balance has to be struck. Criminal law isn’t an appropriate way to conduct industrial relations,” he added.

In a statement, the GRA, said the Horgan review “does note that the number of gardaí has decreased in the last eight years and this has skewed the CSO figures on average garda pay.

“Overtime for many gardaí has been a necessity for the force to remain operational. Unfortunately this presents inflated earnings for those working long hours and extra shifts that is not reflective of the national pattern.”

The GRA added: “The garda pension is, in a sense, deferred payment for work already done. When members sign up in Templemore their pension entitlement is part of their contract, and they contribute towards it monetarily - and through the risks that they take on behalf of the people of this country.”