Strike ballot of frontline gardaí will ‘guide’ GRA

Ciaran O'Neill: Said ballot will help GRA make a decision.

Frontline garda representatives will ultimately make the controversial decision as to what type of industrial action will be pursued if members vote for it in a ballot.

The outcome of the ballot will guide, but not direct, the elected decision-making body of the Garda Representative Association – the Central Executive Committee.

“All we are doing is establishing the will of our membership,” said president Ciaran O’Neill. “It will help us make a decision.”

He said the 10,000-plus members were at their wits’ end and that there was a feeling of anger and frustration.

He said: “They feel undervalued, under-resourced and underpaid.”

The ballot, sent out last Tuesday, asks members: “Are you so dissatisfied with your current pay and conditions that you are willing to take part in a day or days of industrial action?”

Mr O’Neill said the ballots have to be returned by September 26, with the result known the following day.

A special delegate conference is being held on September 28 which will provide the CEC an opportunity to meet and discuss the implications of the result.

A discussion will also be held during the conference with delegates on options.

In a letter accompanying the ballot, GRA general secretary Pat Ennis said: “The decision to take action is your individual choice.

“If you take action that involves a partial or complete withdrawal of services, you could be found in breach of discipline.”

The threat of a breach of discipline could come in the form of conduct unbecoming, absence from duty without cause or failure to comply with an order.

While the laws in the area are not entirely clear, members would not appear to be breaking the law by taking industrial action.

However, there is a criminal offence under Section 59 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 facing those who “induce” a garda to withhold his or her service.

This has obvious implications for representatives of the association if they are interpreted as so doing.

But if members themselves decide to take such action, their representatives may be able to claim they are not inducing them to do so.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Department of Justice said: “While there is no single specific prohibition on striking by members of the Garda Síochána, a combination of provisions in law, including the Industrial Relations Act 1990, as well as Garda discipline regulations, effectively precludes strikes.

“Section 18 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 sets out the conditions of gardaí in respect of joining a representative group.”

Mr O’Neill said most gardaí have been denied pay increments as a result of rejecting the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

This, he said, affected members who had less than 17 years service and new recruits, since recruitment restarted in September 2014. New recruits have also been denied a €4,000 annual rent allowance and a start on a salary of €23,171.


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