AGSI conference: Gardai to risk breaking law with strike action

Delegates listen to commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan. Picture: Paul Mealey

Mid-ranking gardaí will risk breaking the law by considering strike action in a serious ratcheting up of their industrial relations dispute.

In an unprecedented move, the traditionally conservative Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) warned that the “battle lines are drawn”. Association general secretary John Jacob said members felt they had been “left with no option”, given disputes over the last five years regarding restoration of pay and negotiation rights.

He said this was in addition to increasing workloads, the daily risk of assault, and the toll on their mental health, with six members taking their own lives within the last year.

At the AGSI annual conference in Westport, Co Mayo, Mr Jacob said actions would include:

  • A protest march to the Dáil by members in Garda uniform, something which is thought to be unprecedented;
  • Escalating pickets outside the offices of ministers, TDs, and the Dáil;
  • A work-to-rule, with members doing their core job and work hours, grinding the organisation “to a halt”;
  • Holding a special conference in June to debate strike action.

Mr Jacob accepted he could face prosecution and imprisonment for promoting the withdrawal of labour — but said he was “prepared” to do so. Gardaí do not have a legal right to strike and a garda can face up to a year in prison if convicted in the district court and up to five years if convicted in the circuit court of inducing other gardaí to withdraw their services.

Mr Jacob denied they were engaging in a “political” campaign, contrary to the body’s apolitical culture.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, facing an open revolt by frontline managers, refused to comment on the crisis when she arrived at the conference.

Picture: Paul Mealey
Picture: Paul Mealey

Mr Jacob said: “Almost 90% of people in there [the conference] voted to march on the Dáil and take industrial relation activities, like work to rule. Right now, they are militant.”

He said he was ready to meet the justice minister to avert industrial action.

“The industrial action starts today. The battle lines are drawn,” said Mr Jacob, adding that marching would be the first action.

“We are going to march on the Dáil, on the first day of the new government. We are advocating to our members they do it in uniform.

“Then, we will picket outside the Dáil. We’ll start off small. If we’re not getting attention we will escalate it. Then, we’re talking about picketing outside ministers’ and government TDs’ offices and looking at a work to rule.

“If I don’t see meaningful progress, I will have no option but to call a special delegate conference in June and the issue on the table will be the appetite of my association for strike action.”

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