Garda management and representative associations hope to reach agreement by Christmas on changes to a roster system heavily criticised in the Garda Inspectorate’s report last week.
The sides have been engaged in detailed talks since early summer on replacing a system that has been flagged at various levels within the force as posing significant problems.
An internal staff survey requested by interim commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan immediately after she took charge last April revealed it was a key concern of members.
The inspectorate’s report, published last week, disclosed the extent to which it was causing major difficulties throughout the force.
According to the report:
- Supervision of young, inexperienced gardaí had been significantly affected by new rosters;
- The four-day rest period built into rosters was impacting on the continuity of criminal investigations and delaying the arrest of suspects;
- Local regular units and specialist units — such as drug units and task forces targeting burglary and robbery — have reduced or disbanded because of reduction in numbers and new rosters;
- Efficiency of detective units and national units is being affected as they tend to operate during Monday to Friday office hours rather than off peak;
- Members of the highly- secretive National Surveillance Unit — which conducts spying operations on dissidents and organised crime — said the roster was “severely impacting” their availability and had reduced capacity by 20%.
The inspectorate called on the Garda Síochána to complete the review of the pilot roster, with a particular focus on the availability of frontline supervisors and the impact it had on detective units and on the investigation of crime.
The survey ordered by Ms O’Sullivan of members throughout the country, conducted online and filed anonymously, found it was a key concern of staff.
Members told her it was not working effectively either from “an operational or personal point of view”.
Members of Garda staff bodies, including the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, have been engaged in talks with Garda management in a committee known as the Westmanstown Group.
The group has examined systems in other countries and will take the inspectorate’s findings into account.
The intention, according to insiders, is to have the work of the group finished by the year end.
Sources said it has been a “rocky road” but both sides had made compromises.
Association representatives will have to go back to their members before the changes are officially agreed.
A Garda spokesman last night said: “Progress has been made during these negotiations.
“It is hoped that the negotiations will conclude shortly,” he said.
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