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Dublin: 1 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Garda mission to refugee camp on Syrian border cancelled at 'eleventh hour' due to overtime pay dispute

A team of eight gardaí and two sergeants was due to fly out last Friday where it would interview hundreds of refugees.

A refugee camp on the Syrian-Jordan border.
A refugee camp on the Syrian-Jordan border.
Image: Shutterstock/Ehab Othman

PLANS FOR A team of gardaí to head out to the middle east were cancelled last-minute in a dispute involving overtime pay conditions.

The team of eight gardaí and two sergeants was due to fly out to a refugee camp on the Syrian border last Friday, where it would interview hundreds of refugees due to be resettled in Ireland under an international relocation programme.

The members of the force were told that they would not be paid for their overtime while in Jordan, but instead would be offered time off in lieu of the extra hours worked, RTÉ reported last night.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland programme today, Philip McAnenly, deputy general secretary of the Garda Representative Association said the team was told at “the eleventh hour” that they would not get paid for their overtime.

“Last week, 10 gardaí were due to travel to Amman [...] and at the eleventh hour they were informed that the existing agreement that pertains for working on one’s days off would not be honoured.

“By this stage Gardaí had already procured visas to travel, their travel tickets had been arranged and booked, accomodation had been organised for them. They had gone to great inconvenience in rearranging childcare for their family, changing rosters in their work.

“Throughout the public service, the norm is that when any public worker works on a rostered day off or a rest day, or on an annual leave, the appropriate overtime rate will apply. These gardaí were not looking for anything different.”

The current overtime agreement allows for Gardaí to decide whether they want to be paid or to take the time back at a later stage.

The trip, which would have cost thousands, was scheduled to last thirteen days, with gardaí due to work 4 of their rest days in that time.

“The overtime agreement provides that it is the worker’s option whether you take the appropriate rate of pay or whether you take the TOIL (time off in lieu).

“Because the worker accepts the inconvenience and it is an inordinate and excessive inconvenience that these 10 gardaí agreed and volunteered to undertake… it is unacceptable that the employer would attempt to change the rules at such a late stage.

The Irish Government agreed to accept 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

A garda spokesperson said An Garda Síochana was committed to its obligations under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

“A mission to Amman, Jordan, scheduled to take place between 17 to 29 July was at an advanced stage of planning. The deployment did not go ahead on this occasion, as agreement on terms and conditions of travel was not reached.”

A team from the Department of Justice is already at refugee camps and were awaiting the arrival of gardaí to interview the incoming asylum seekers. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said its own representatives under the refugee programme are currently in Jordan to carry out initial assessments, adding “there are many aspects to this process which can be completed without requiring garda presence”.

They said: “The deployment of members of An Garda Síochana is a matter for garda management” and “there will be an opportunity for [gardaí] to undertake security assessments of candidates prior to them being formally accepted for resettlement to Ireland.”

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