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Antoinette Cunningham, AGSI General Secretary. Sam Boal
Industrial Dispute

Garda group criticises Commissioner Drew Harris for official roster 'dispute' declaration

In a statement the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors spoke of their ‘disappointment’ that Drew Harris has not agreed to fresh talks.

THE BODY REPRESENTING middle ranked gardaí has “heavily criticised” Garda Commissioner Drew Harris over declaring an official dispute with the group. 

In a strongly worded statement the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) spoke of their “disappointment” that Harris has not listened to their pleas for talks. 

In a statement the group said its members had rejected the proposed new Garda Roster in November citing work-life balance issues, and a requirement to work up to an additional 47 days per year, for some members.

AGSI rejected the roster proposals by 63% in a ballot of members. 

General Secretary, Antoinette Cunningham, speaking following a meeting, stated that they had previously written to, and spoken with the Garda Commissioner and appealed to him to reconvene talks to resolve the matter.

“We believe there is scope to resolve this matter through dialogue. However, this morning the Garda Commissioner placed the matter of Rosters into formal dispute something that the AGSI feel is unnecessary and inappropriate at this time given the many challenges facing the Garda organisation in the short term.

“The last thing that AGSI needs at this time is a dispute with the Garda Commissioner given that COVID-19 is again highly prevalent and coupled with this, the organisation is currently experiencing serious recruitment and retention issue with falling Garda numbers,” she said. 

Cunningham spoke about her group’s “deep disappointment” with the Garda Commissioner’s stance.

She added that gardaí had been working in a state of uncertainty since March 2020 when they began policing an emergency COVID-19 Roster.

“We are now calling on the Garda Commissioner to extend the current Roster working arrangements for a minimum period of 12 months to provide some predictability to AGSI members. In any other organisation, this uncertainty around working conditions would not be tolerated,” she added. 

The Association has said it will meet next week to consider the impact of the Commissioners commencement of this dispute and the impact of same on its membership given the unprecedented nature of it.

The Garda Representative Association had previously rejected the new rosters.

The issue centres around work times which would see specialist gardaí, such as detectives, move to an office-based role working nine to five daily.

Gardaí affected by the change are unhappy with an arrangement which would see them working for seven straight days before receiving two rest days. 

The issue is around so-called “non-core” units which make up specialist gardaí such as detectives and community policing. In the new roster, they would work six days on/three days off, then seven days on/two day off and then seven days on/three days off.  

There are also concerns about the possible loss of allowances for working unsociable hours because they would not be expected to perform night duty. 

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said that the Covid Contingency roster was introduced by the Commissioner to deal with policing requirements during the pandemic.

The garda statement added that it was “always intended to be a temporary roster” and is now to be replaced by a revised roster. They said this was recommended by the Commission on the future of Policing in Ireland.

The spokesperson added that the organisation has been engaging with all of the Garda Representative Associations, including AGSI, “over a prolonged period of time” on the matter of roster reform.

“The Commissioner, the Association of Garda Chief Superintendents and the Association of Garda Superintendents have accepted these new proposals. Unfortunately, these proposals have been rejected by AGSI after a ballot of its members and the GRA without a ballot.

“The matter is still the subject of ongoing discussions in the An Garda Síochána Conciliation Council. As discussions at this Council are confidential in nature, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. However, Garda Management remain committed to engaging with all Garda Representative Associations in order resolve this matter, within the agreed Dispute Resolution Procedures which all parties are signed up to.

“It is important that whatever Garda roster is in place serves the public and supports the most vulnerable in society, ensures the health and wellbeing of Garda Members and allows the Commissioner to effectively and efficiently manage the organisation,” the spokesperson added. 

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