New restrictions to block gardaí from strike action considered

Sources say any such moves would be done in partnership with Garda associations

AGSI sources said the union would likely be prepared to accept some sort of “ground rules” in exchange for access to the Workplace Relations Commission, while GRA sources noted that other European police forces had waived their right to strike in exchange for higher pay. File photograph: Getty Images

AGSI sources said the union would likely be prepared to accept some sort of “ground rules” in exchange for access to the Workplace Relations Commission, while GRA sources noted that other European police forces had waived their right to strike in exchange for higher pay. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The Government is considering introducing new restrictions to prevent gardaí from engaging in strike action as they had threatened last month.

Sources on Friday night said any such moves would be done in partnership with the Garda representative associations as part of a “consultative process” that would take place over the coming months.

It is understood that as part of forthcoming negotiations on allowing members of An Garda Síochána access to the industrial relations mechanisms of the State, the Government wants to introduce constraints on what industrial action gardaí will be able to take.

The talks on granting the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) access to the Workplace Relations Commission will also consider whether the organisations want to remain as associations or take trade union status.

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. The €50 million deal will see gardaí receive an average of €4,000 in additional remuneration next year.

Both the AGSI and the GRA voted to accept the deal by overwhelming margins.

Threat unacceptable

A number of sources have said the threat of strikes is unacceptable, with one saying the Government cannot have the “sword of Damocles” hanging over it. “There is no way we can allow what happened to ever happen again,” one senior Minister said. A Government source said: “Work is beginning on very significant considerations towards designing and implementing a new industrial relations framework for members of An Garda Síochána.”

The Council of Europe has ruled that Garda members have the right to strike and participate in trade union action.

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.

“Nobody wants this grey area to arise again,” a Government source said. “What is not determined at this point is how you make the grey area black and white.” AGSI sources said it would likely be prepared to accept some sort of “ground rules” in exchange for access to the WRC, while GRA sources noted that other European police forces had waived their right to strike in exchange for higher pay.

A report from John Horgan, the former chair of the Labour Court, on Garda pay and remuneration is due to be published early next week and it will inform the process of allowing gardaí access to the WRC.

Such talks are likely to have made “significant progress” by next summer, according to Government sources. One said any constraints on potential industrial action by gardaí, and possibly other essential staff, should be formally in place for the successor agreement to the Lansdowne Road deal on public sector pay.