Garda strike restrictions to be discussed by Cabinet

Constraints on Garda industrial action and trade union status possibility to be debated

 

New restrictions on members of An Garda Síochána going on strike or taking other forms of industrial action are expected to be discussed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.

As reported by The Irish Times earlier this month, the constraints are expected to form part of discussions to allow Garda associations access to the industrial relations mechanisms of the State.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald will bring a memo to Cabinet to allow the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) officially have access to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court.

The talks on granting the GRA and the Agsi access to both will also consider whether the organisations want to remain as associations or take trade union status.

Ms Fitzgerald, in conjunction with Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor, will ask the Cabinet to consider “the status of the Garda associations established under the Garda Síochána Acts and the related question of the constraints on members taking industrial action”.

Union status

If the associations decide to take trade union status, such a move would “need to be underpinned by a full consideration of the potential implications for the Garda Síochána as the single national police service dealing with all aspects of policing matters (including regular policing, State security and immigration control)”.

Another difficulty that would need to be considered is if gardaí would then be bound by the decisions of another entity, such as the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which “would not be constrained by concerns around the functions of the Garda Síochána”. Another “imperative” is that “the public perception of the gardaí’s impartiality is not undermined”.

An alternative to becoming unions would to be develop “a specific set of rules tailored to the needs of the police service and provided for in regulations under the Garda Síochána Act”.

Strike averted

Ministers were alarmed at how close the State came to an unprecedented strike by more than 12,000 gardaí last month. The strike was averted by a last-minute deal at the Labour Court, which recommended increased pay levels for gardaí and access to the commission.

For now, it is not legally clear if members of the force can actually go on strike. However, it is an offence to induce members to withdraw their labour.

The memo also says that fewer than 10 per cent of disputes should find their way to the Workplace Relations Commission and only one-tenth of those heard at the WRC should referred to the Labour Court.