Gardaí warn against making them pay more for pensions

Garda Representative Association says their faster rate of accrual is ‘danger money’

A garda demands pay restoration during a protest  outside Government Buildings, Dublin. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A garda demands pay restoration during a protest outside Government Buildings, Dublin. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Rank-and-file gardaí have warned the Government against making them pay more for their pensions in the future.

Gardaí received a €50 million pay boost last November from the Government in an attempt to head off a threatened strike.

However, in recent days, senior trade union figures have forecast that a new public service pay deal could see groups such as gardaí, judges and politicians, who have faster accruing pensions than other public servants, having to make larger pension contributions.

Any move to make gardaí pay more for their pensions would have the effect of eroding the relative gains they made in the pay deal last November.

On Friday, gardaí argued that their accelerated rate of accrual was actually “danger money”.

Informed sources have suggested that any move to impose higher contributions for some public service personnel would likely coincide with the elimination of the existing public service pension levy.

Responding to the reports, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said on Friday that gardaí must not be treated unfairly in the forthcoming talks on a new public service pay deal.

The association also warned that its pay campaign was not over.

In a statement, the GRA said Garda pensions had been successively devalued in both 1995 and 2013.

It said gardaí had been forced into compulsory retirement as early as age 55, regardless of their financial needs.

“The Garda pension is hard-earned, and a deferred payment for work already done. In essence, any accelerated accrual can be regarded as ‘danger money’.

“Both the statutory Conroy Commission and the report of the Ryan Committee [of] Inquiry have confirmed policing as a unique occupation.

“Extensive academic research confirms that the pressures of the job put gardaí at real risk of high blood pressure, insomnia, dangerous levels of destructive stress hormones, heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental wellbeing.

“Common psychological problems experienced by gardaí may not be caused by one single traumatic incident, but the cumulative weight of dealing with many incidents over the course of a career.

“Gardaí may experience more trauma in a month than most other citizens will see in a lifetime.

“The Garda conditions of service have been denigrated, particularly in the reform of the sickness regulations.

“This is seen to be unfair and discriminatory to a profession where sickness, injury-on-duty and psychological challenges are occupational hazards.”

Life expectancy

GRA spokesman John O’Keeffe said the association had indications that a combination of occupational stress, heightened risk, and shiftwork patterns had a detrimental effect on life expectancy for gardaí.

He said this combination reduced quality of life in terms of both physical and psychological wellbeing.

Mr O’Keeffe said: “Academic research increasingly supports this viewpoint. We do not believe that this is properly accounted for in any quantitative analysis of the monetary value of Garda pensions.”

The GRA said gardaí would not accept any further reductions in their take-home pay at a time when they were seeking the full restoration of their wages.

“Our pay issue is not over. Governments have imposed unwarranted levies - or imposed targeted taxes on the public servants.

“This Government has continued with a policy of putting an extra tax burden on public servants, disrespecting our contractual agreements with carefully constructed language and ideas. It’s not a pension levy - it’s a tax on public servants.”