Mid-ranking gardaí to discuss possible industrial action at emergency meeting

AGSI members are seeking negotiation rights and better pay

Mid-ranking gardaí to discuss possible industrial action at emergency meeting

President of AGSI Antoinette Cunningham at a protest outside Leinster House in May 2016 | File photo: RollingNews.ie

Mid-ranking gardaí will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss possible industrial action.

Some 151 members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) are gathering in Athlone for a special delegate conference.

The organisation is seeking access to negotiations in the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court, as well as pay restoration of 16.5%.

It also wants to see recognition and implementation of a 2013 decision by the EU Social Committee, which would allow gardaí to strike and join trade unions.

The AGSI president, Antoinette Cunningham, told Newstalk Breakfast that she had "never seen the mood so desolate" among members.

She also criticised recent comments by Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, in which he warned that striking gardaí could "change their relationship with the public forever".

Politicians are spinning stories to the media, she said, instead of focusing on "their own failings in relation to what they could have done to allow us to progress matters".

"It’s very simplistic for people like Minister Varadkar to try to turn the argument backwards instead of trying to find solutions to problems."

Ms Cunningham also refuted concerns that industrial action could trigger a "domino effect" in the public service.

Gardaí are unique in being prevented from negotiating better working conditions, she said.

"They are the only group that don’t get to talk about the pay and conditions of their members in the forums other have."

Today’s conference comes ahead of four days of work stoppages by rank-and-file officers next month.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is due to withdraw services on November 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th, following its rejection of a proposed pay deal.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has meanwhile urged gardaí to reengage in talks to avert industrial action. 

"The focus has to be on finding a pathway forward to negotiate," she told reporters.

"I have met with both organisations. The government and I want to find a way forward that is fair to An Garda Síochána, who like many public sector sectors have had very difficult times, and fair to the broader public sector workforce, and the taxpayer."