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Minister says gardaí can no longer be required to work without rest or meal breaks

At present gardaí are excluded from an EU working time directive which states that people working longer than six-hour shifts be granted rest and meal breaks.

The Four Courts Source: William Murphy

THE GOVERNMENT IS to introduce legislation removing the “blanket exclusion” of members of An Garda Síochána from EU Directives concerning working hours, the High Court has heard.

The court was due to hear a challenge brought by two Garda members against the force’s exclusion, as contained in the Working Time Act 1997 , from the EU’s Working Time Directive.

The directive, brought in for health and safety reasons, recognises the need for rest periods during working hours as a basic right of workers in the EU. Specifically where a working day is more than six hours long every worker is entitled to rest breaks.

However the case did not proceed after the High Court was told the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O Connor said in a letter that she intends to bring a bill to cabinet “in the next six weeks” applying the terms of the Working Time Directive to the gardaí.

Challenge

Gardaí John Gaine and Padraig Harrington had brought the challenge after they worked eight-hour shifts, without breaks, while on witness protection duty between October 2010 and January 2011 when based in Roxboro Road District in Limerick.

During the predominantly nighttime shifts the gardaí said they were not afforded either a rest break or a meal break, nor were they paid overtime payments for the times they should have been allowed such breaks during the course of their duties.

File Photo GARDAI HAVE VOTED overwhelming in favour of taking industrial action over pay. The members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) were balloted by the union on their preference for whether or not industrial action should be taken over?th Source: RollingNews.ie

The EU’s Working Time Directive is transcribed into Irish law, but gardaí are currently excluded from its remit after Section 3 of the 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act was enacted which meant that the scope of the directive did not apply to either members of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces.

However the two gardaí had claimed their “blanket exclusion” from the Working Time directive meant the 1997 Act failed to comply with the EU directive.

The directive had not been properly transposed into Irish law, which was in breach of EU law, they claimed.

Protections

They said they were entitled to the protections afforded by the directive, which had been denied to them. As a result they had suffered loss and inconvenience.

They had made repeated requests of the Garda Commissioner for compensation for their loss, but said the Commissioner had refused to acknowledge their entitlements under the directive.

In their proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, Ireland, and the Attorney General, Gaine and Harrington sought declarations including that the section of the 1997 Act excluding gardaí from EU directive’s scope was in breach of both the EU Working Time Directive and the code of An Garda Síochána.

They also sought declarations that the section of the 1997 Act excluding them is void and being required to work eight-hour shifts without a breach was in breach of the directive.

They further sought damages for breach of contract and aggravated damages. The defendants had opposed the action, and the case was listed for hearing before the High Court today.

When the case was called Mr Justice Paul Gilligan was informed by Eileen Barrington SC for the two gardaí that the case would not be proceeding.

Counsel said her client’s solicitors Hughes and Hughes had been provided with a letter from Minister Mitchell O’Connor stating that following clarification from the Courts of Justice of the European Union the Minister plans to introduce legislation to amend the 1997 act as it applies to gardaí.

This will bring the law into line with the rulings of the EU court. The Minister will seek guidance from the Department of Justice on what should be proposed to replace the existing laws. Minister Mitchell O’Connor will also be writing to Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe in relation to the matter.

In light of the Minister’s decision the Judge, following a request by counsel for the respective parties, agreed to adjourn the case to the end of November.

Comments are closed as the case remains before the courts

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Aodhan O Faolain

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