Frontline gardaí are expected to begin drawing up a campaign of industrial action today after a ballot of members showed that almost all were willing to take the radical step.
Some 150 delegates of the 10,500-strong Garda Representative Association will gather this morning to discuss behind closed doors a weekend pay proposal and yesterday’s ballot result.
Some 95% of members who voted (in a turnout of 66%) said they were willing to take industrial action.
Experienced association sources said such an emphatic result “could not be ignored”.
Sources said “everything will be on the table” in relation to industrial action, ranging from work-to-rule, to blue flu (ringing in sick), to all-out strike — and the associated legal risks.
The ballot was conducted before a surprise deal was agreed by GRA negotiators and Department of Justice officials on Friday night.
The proposal was put before the GRA’s executive committee on Monday, but its 31 members could not agree on it, with some strongly opposed to it.
While the deal would see the restoration of the €4,000 rent allowance to recent recruits and the lifting of the freeze of pay increments for those with less than 17 years’ service, it did not deal with pay restoration for all members and included the continuation of the extra hours obligation.
The GRA’s central executive committee adjourned discussion to today’s conference in Tullamore.
GRA president Ciaran O’Neill yesterday said the ballot result showed an “overwhelming” acceptance that members “are willing to take industrial action”.
He said: “I have to be guided by the members. They are the people making the decision as to what action, if any action, is to be taken and what level of action.”
He said the result reflected the mood among members: “The anger and frustration amongst them — it hasn’t been seen for years.”
He said members want their pay restored, which “unfortunately” wasn’t going to happen under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
“Lansdowne Road does offer some partial restoration and eliminates some elements of the two-tier pay system that we have, but the majority of members are not going to be benefiting from it, so they will ultimately decide what actions will be taken.”
A range of sources contacted yesterday indicated the pay proposal is likely to be rejected by delegates.
After the proposal is discussed and scheduled business regarding the ratification of the general secretary and the election of treasurer is dealt with, delegates will discuss the ballot result and forms of industrial action.
“The feeling is there is a mandate for industrial action and we need to discuss that,” said one source.
Another source said: “The extra hours was never going to be accepted and I’d say the proposal will be binned.
“The discussion on the ballot will be how best to organise industrial action so that people are not exposed to the law.”
GRA representatives are mindful that there is a prohibition on anyone inducing a garda to withdraw his or her labour — subject to a criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment.
A letter that accompanied the ballot told members that the decision to take industrial action was an “individual choice” and that withdrawal of labour, either in full or part, could amount to a “breach of discipline”.
One source said: “This is the position we find ourselves in. There is a massive level of frustration among members. They thought pay talks were about pay restoration. They are facing danger on the street, a huge amount of abuse and assaults.
“Members feel the GRA have been putting action on the long finger — and that that’s no longer an option.”
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