Public service trade unions have given unequivocal support to Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) chairman Kevin Duffy after his position was called into question by Garda representative bodies.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ public services committee has stressed it would have a “serious problem” with any attempt to remove Mr Duffy from the PSPC role.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, which represents middle-ranking gardaí, has said it will not engage with, or make any submissions to, the PSPC until its national executive meets in December to decide whether or not it has confidence in Mr Duffy.
That is in light of Mr Duffy’s comments that threatened industrial action by gardaí earlier this month was tantamount to mutiny and illegal by any standard. He last night retracted the use of the word “mutiny”, though not the use of the term “illegal”.
The Garda Representative Association, which represents rank and file gardaí, had said Mr Duffy’s position is “becoming untenable”.
AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said the former Labour Court chairman’s impartiality and objectivity were now “questionable”. She told RTÉ radio the reaction she had got to his comments from her members had been “overwhelming”.
“Although [Public Expenditure Minister] Paschal Donohoe says he is the right man for the job, the question for AGSI members is whether he is the right man to work with the gardaí in relation to the PSPC,” she said.
“PSPC is not solely about pay. It is also about reform in the public sector and we know we have to develop systems and a framework within An Garda Síochána for dealing with future industrial relations mechanisms.”
She said it was a matter for Mr Donohoe to dealwith the consequences if her members decided they do not have confidence in Mr Duffy.
However, it would appear that, within the wider public service, support for Mr Duffy in resolute. Bernard Harbor, head of communications with Impact trade union, said everyone involved in the public pay talks — unions employers and Government — believed Mr Duffy was the best qualified for the role.
Speaking on behalf of the ICTU public services committee, Mr Harbor said that not only did public service unions have total confidence in Mr Duffy “but we would also have a very serious problem if there was any attempt to replace him as the chair of the PSPC”.
He said it had been their experience that Mr Duffy was a man of integrity and independence as well as unequal in his knowledge of pay structure and pay determination. “We believe it would be very difficult if not impossible to replace that experience,” he added.
He also issued a warning that the fallout between gardaí and Mr Duffy must not delay the work of the PSPC.
“If the GRA or anybody else decides that they want to postpone their engagement that can’t be allowed to hold up this process,” he said. “Our objective is to get into an early negotiation on public service pay restoration, to accelerate public service pay recovery and we don’t want to see anything happen that is going to delay that or hold up the achievement of those objectives.
“No organisation whether it is Impact or a garda representative organisation has the right or prerogative to hold up the process for everybody else.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved