Public pay commission chairman defends comments after backlash from gardaí

Garda associations have lashed out at “unfair, unfounded and hugely damaging" remarks from Public Service Pay Commission Chairman, Kevin Duffy

Public pay commission chairman defends comments after backlash from gardaí

AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham

The chairman of the Public Service Pay Commission has been accused of making “damaging and divisive” comments over the potential garda strike.

Speaking at an industrial relations conference this morning, commission chairman Kevin Duffy said the threatened strike action could best be described as a “mutiny.”

Mr Duffy said the planned strikes by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) were illegal, “by any standard.”

“Here was a dispute that was unlawful and there was either no mechanism to enforce the law or no desire to enforce the law,” he said.

“That sort of thing brings the law into disrepute.”

Speaking to Newstalk Drive this evening, Mr Duffy said he only referred to the gardaí to illustrate the "futility of thinking that you can prevent strikes by passing laws that prohibit strikes" and said his comments need to be taken in context:

Mr Duffy said he had "made no comment on the validity of the garda pay claim" or on what gardaí should be paid in the future.

This afternoon, AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham called for Mr Duffy to retract the comments, calling them, “extremely damaging and divisive.”

“The National Executive of this Association read the comments in the media today and were shocked that a Government-appointed, and supposedly independent Chairman, would articulate such views,” she said.

She said the comments were “unfair, unfounded and hugely damaging to relations between this Association and the PSPC,” she said.

Ms Cunningham said her association has it, “on good legal standing” that the threatened strike action was, “in no way illegal.”

“The law is not prescriptive in this matter and in fact we won an EU decision in 2014 which effectively recognised the right for our members to strike,” she said.

Ms Cunningham called on the Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe to consider whether he has confidence in Mr Duffy’s “objectivity and independence” following the comments.

GRA President, Ciaran O'Neill said Mr Duffy should now consider his position as chairman of the Public Service Pay Commission:

The general secretary of the GRA, Pat Ennis said the comments call Mr Duffy’s “impartiality, independence and neutrality into serious doubt.”

“I am astonished that such comments would be publicly stated by the chairman of a State body designed to serve all employees equally,” he said.

He said the comments will serve to diminish any confidence among GRA members that they might receive a fair hearing at the Public Service Pay Commission.

Mr Duffy said that he is "absolutely impartial" and insisted his words were never intended as an attack on the gardaí.

"I am totally satisfied that I am capable of being objective in fulfilling the role that I have been asked to undertake and I intend to continue in that," he said.