The country’s 11,300 frontline gardaí may resign in a mass protest, if the Government ploughs ahead with its plan to impose further pay cuts on members.
As gardaí are prevented from striking, this potential move, dubbed by some as “the nuclear option”, is one of the actions being contemplated by the Garda Representative Association.
The GRA is planning to ratchet up its opposition in proportion to the level of pressure the Government exerts on pay reductions as it tries to achieve €300m in savings.
A GRA spokesman said the organisation was “considering a range of options” that “we won’t be discussing at this time”.
However, GRA sources told the Irish Examiner that mass resignations could be on the cards as a last resort.
Prior to that, the most serious action likely to be undertaken by rank-and-file gardaí would be an organised mass sick leave, or “blue flu”, campaign.
The last time thousands of gardaí took sick leave as part of a protest over pay and conditions was in May 1998. The then Garda commissioner Pat Byrne described it as “a black day” for the force. But within a few weeks the Government relented and agreed to give gardaí a pay increase.
GRA officials met with Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey in Dublin last week and told him in no uncertain terms that their members could not take any further pay cuts. Some have already seen their pay packets cut by over 25%.
At last week’s GRA conference in Westport, Co Mayo, delegates heard that many of their colleagues were in such dire financial trouble their homes were being repossessed.
The Garda Benevolent Trust Fund, which was set up to help members who had fallen seriously ill, reported that in the past 12 months it had helped more and more gardaí pay their gas and electricity bills.
Meanwhile, many gardaí have expressed interest in applying to police forces in Australia and Canada where they feel they will have better pay and conditions.
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