Garda strike inevitable unless progress made by Wednesday
Donohoe refuses to be drawn on whether Defence Forces would be drafted on Friday
The Government’s offer is understood to include the reintroduction of a €4,000 rent allowance for newly recruited gardaí and changes to shift payments. Photograph: The Irish Times
Senior Government figures believe significant progress must be made in talks with gardaí by Wednesday or a strike starting on Friday will be inevitable.
Highly-placed sources last night said there was “a new awareness” within Government about the seriousness of the situation and the potential consequences of any strike action.
Talks with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) aimed at averting strike action took place again on Sunday, while further meetings with the Garda Representative Association (GRA) will take place on Monday.
“Nothing can be agreed with AGSI until agreement has been reached with the GRA and nothing can be agreed without their members’ support. It is a tight time frame,” one highly-placed Government source said.
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said yesterday “substantial arrangements and a package” had been put in place for gardaí in a bid to avoid the unprecedented series of one-day strikes, which is scheduled to start on Friday.
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The Irish Times reported on Saturday the Government’s offer to gardaí involved a new payment for a 15-minute period spent “on parade” at briefings before a shift.
The offer is also understood to include the reintroduction of a €4,000 rent allowance for newly-recruited gardaí and changes to shift payments.
Mr Donohoe said the Government was in discussions with a number of agencies about a contingency plan if the strike went ahead. However, he would not be drawn on whether the Defence Forces would be drafted in. “There is no contingency plan comparable to 12,000 members of the force not turning up.”
Government sources said discussions with Garda headquarters would escalate if a resolution to the dispute was not agreed by Wednesday. It is also understood the two Garda organisations will be asked to ensure a skeleton staff is in place on Friday if the strike goes ahead.
The Government is expected to argue additional payments to gardaí as part of any deal would be in return for increased productivity.
The Government’s offer is being watched very carefully by nurses, among others. Sources close to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said yesterday the time nurses had to spend handing over responsibilities between shifts was “a close cousin” to the “parade” time gardaí had to spend in advance of going on duty.
Nurses are currently paid for a 39-hour week, but in one of a series of unpublished side deals to the Lansdowne Road agreement, the Government agreed to measure all hours they actually worked. This process is now due to get under way, and nurses believe it will show they are not being paid for all the hours due.