Garda unions agree to begin fresh talks at Workplace Relations Commission

GRA and AGSI members are due to withdraw labour for four days in November

The government and two garda unions have agreed to use the Labour Court and Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to avert next Friday's strike.

Government talks with the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) had been underway for several days with no sign of a resolution.

The Department said in two separate statements this evening that an agreement to utilise the state institutions "on an ad-hoc basis" have now been reached with both organisations. 

Garda unions have been pushing for access to the state's industrial relations mechanisms for a number of years, however - despite commitments from the Department of Justice - that access has been denied until now.

With members of both organisations due to withdraw labour for four days in November, a deal was eventually reached today to begin fresh talks. These are expected to take place over the weekend.

The former general secretary of the Civil Public and Service Union, Blair Horan, said the move represents a significant breakthrough for the GRA:

Mr Horan said that while the government doesn't want a strike, the Department of Justice cannot simply give in.

"The other public sector unions will be watching very closely," he said.

"[Any settlement] will have to be compatible with the Lansdowne Road Agreement and that is a fine line the government will have to walk - otherwise everybody is going to say, 'there is no special case here, we want the same."

The 2,200 members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) withdrew from administrative duties today – including the use of the garda PULSE system.

They are also refusing to carry out administrative duties including detailing members for duty, processing files or responding to correspondence from management.

The AGSI withdrawal will remain in effect until 7am tomorrow with members also expected to join their rank and file colleagues on the picket line should the November action go ahead.

The potential strikes are causing concern among members of other frontline emergency services with a statement released today by the Irish Medical Organisation calling on the government to take "all necessary steps" to ensure the health service is not adversely impacted.

The statement said gardaí interact with the health service in "a number of key areas including securing accident sites, assisting with individuals suffering severe mental trauma and, unfortunately, sometimes maintaining order in overcrowded Emergency Departments." 

An IMO spokesperson said it is “incumbent on the Government to ensure that adequate steps are taken during contingency planning to assure that this vital support is maintained during any industrial action.”

Both garda unions said their members had to bear the burden of harsh pay cuts in the years after the recession and it is now time they are repaid. 

It is technically illegal for the garda unions to organise an all-out strike and under industrial relations legislation gardaí are excluded from the protections usually afforded to striking workers.