18/10/2016

Tánaiste 'Disappointed' By AGSI Decision On Industrial Action

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Frances Fitzgerald, has said she is disappointed by the decision by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) to take industrial action.

Minister Fitzgerald said this was particularly the case as AGSI members have not been balloted on taking the action and it is just seven weeks since members had voted to accept the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) by over 70%. 

In a statement issued on her website, the Tánaiste said: "This strong endorsement of the LRA was on foot of an agreement reached between my Department and AGSI which addressed in a very positive way the issues raised by AGSI in the course of negotiations, which took place over a number of months.

"In particular, it sought to address the concerns that they have articulated in relation to the pay of new recruits, the additional hours that Gardaí are required to work, their access to pay determination and dispute resolution bodies, and the completion of the Review of An Garda Síochána. The agreement included very significant benefits, including the restoration of the rent allowance worth over €4,000 or 17% annually to new recruits.  

"I met representatives of AGSI earlier this month and my Department extended an invitation to meet last week. That invitation remains open and I would urge them to engage with my Department to find a solution for their members.  

"My focus and that of the Government is on negotiation. I remain focused on finding a pathway to negotiate with AGSI in a way which is fair to their members, the taxpayer and other public sector workers. This must be within the parameters of the very real constraints on public sector pay.  

"In relation to pay determination negotiations generally there is a commitment to the Garda representative associations to have direct access on the same basis as all other unions and representative bodies to future pay determination mechanisms including the Public Service Pay Commission and subsequent central pay negotiations.  

"The work of the Commission will facilitate this engagement with public sector unions and representative bodies and other stakeholders on the successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement. The Public Service Pay Commission will report by the middle of next year.  

"I am also absolutely committed to the Garda representative bodies having access to the statutory dispute resolution bodies - the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. I expect the Review of An Garda Síochána that is underway at present under the Chairmanship of Mr John Horgan will map out what needs to be done to achieve this. However, it is important to note that changes to primary legislation will be required to achieve this. I am committed to such provision being made and once the Chair of the Review has completed his examination of this matter my Department will move as quickly as possible to put in train whatever actions are required. 

"It would be most unfortunate if, rather than engaging further, action were to be contemplated that would not be in the best interests of our communities or of An Garda Síochána."

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O'Brien said that garda strike action would have a "significant impact" on key provisions and called on Minister Fitzgerald to outline her exact contingency plan for policing during the Garda strike as well as her plans to avert the action.

Deputy O'Brien said: "This level of Garda action is unprecedented and far more extreme than the 'Blue Flu' of the 1990s.

"It will have a significant impact on service provision by a key organ of the State and one which the public will have significant concerns about.

"The Minister clearly needs to outline her exact contingency plan for policing during the Garda strike, but more urgently her plans to avert the action through dialogue with the Gardaí themselves, rather than thinking media appearances are going to magically resolve the issue."

(MH/LM)

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