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Gardaí 'considering strike action' as anger grows among rank-and-file members

Members have express frustration that more action hasn’t been taken to restore pay.

gardaí- 1 Source: RollingNews.ie

DISCONTENT IS STIRRING among the grassroots of An Garda Síochána over proposed changes to rostering.

Rank-and-file gardaí have expressed frustration that union leaders are shying away from demanding pay restoration on their behalf, and feel that proposed roster changes will mean more hours of work.

Such is the level of anger that even the possibility of strike action has been discussed.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, one Cork-based garda said: “This is actually getting ferociously dirty and there would be an awful lot of politics involved in it.”

‘They would consider strikes’ 

At a meeting in Cork on 7 March around 300 gardaí from around the country gathered in the Clayton Hotel Silver Springs to voice their discontent at the proposed roster change.

The Irish Examiner’s Seán O’Riordan reported that the mood in the room was “angry and militant”.

Amid the furore, there were demands by members that the possibility of strike action be considered.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, GRA central executive committee member Michael Corcoran explained: ”Under the Garda Síochána Act strikes are prohibited.”

But I had members at our meeting in Cork who were saying that they would consider strikes.

Corcoran added that members had cited their right to strike under the European Social Charter.

european social charter The European Social Charter protects the rights of trade unions at a European level Source: European Social Charter

A ruling in May 2014 by the European Confederation of Police on a case brought forward by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) found in favour of gardaí wanting to ensure their right to strike.

Following the meeting, the GRA’s central executive committee requested the minutes, a move Corcoran said was “unprecedented”.

Somebody decided I suppose that they wanted to put some manners on the guys in Cork and… this was the route that somebody came up with and that is what happened.

‘It’s not rejection, it’s anger’

Damien McCarthy is a former president of the GRA and representative to the central executive committee for Dublin’s South Central Division, one of the largest in the country. 

Reflecting on the attitude of rank-and-file gardaí in his division towards the proposed roster, he told TheJournal.ie: 

“At the moment the actual topic is causing extreme anger among the membership. When you couple everything together with increased workloads and reduced pay… [a] proposal of such vast changes in rostered working time is having a detrimental effect on members.”

The feedback is anger. It’s not rejection, it’s anger.

‘The issue for members is pay restoration’

Compared to pre-2009 levels, gardaí salaries are down about 10% across the board and a range of benefits – including a rent allowance of €4,000 – have been obliterated.

As Corcoran explained: ”The issue for us and for the members, certainly in Cork city and I think broadly, is pay restoration.”

We feel that we’ve been left behind. That even though the country is currently undergoing a resurgence economically we’re just being left behind. Nothing whatsoever is being done to restore our pay to levels it was at prior to the crash.

He estimated that some members in his division were down as much as €200 a week on what they had been paid six years ago.

Last October GRA members voted to reject the Lansdowne Road pay agreement by a majority of around 87% to 11%.

lansdowne road Brendan Howlin announcing the Lansdowne Road agreement in May of last year Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

In a deal shared by workers across the public sector, gardaí would have seen pay restored by around €2,000 over a three-year period. 

The feeling among members was that this didn’t acknowledge the additional 30 hours a year that they already had been working as part of a previous public pay deal.

Rank-and-file gardaí are paid between €23,000 for a new recruit up to around €45,000 for someone with 17 years service.

Rostering issues

Although one long-serving garda told TheJournal.ie that the new roster wasn’t a “major issue”,  he noted that the new deal had done away with some “nice little bonuses”.

Under the new agreement gardaí will work six 10-hour days in a row followed by one recovery day and three days off. 

One member said that the changes will see gardaí always begin the working cycle on an early and end it on a late shift – something that cuts into their free time. 

While at the moment it is unclear what outcome, if any, there will be from this discontent – you can be sure that things will be much clearer when votes are cast on the issue next month.

The GRA said that it did not have a comment by the time of publication. 

Read: Rank-and-file gardaí to be balloted on updated roster

Also: Luxury cars and €30k in cash seized in crackdown targeting Kinahan cartel

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