Shift system will see more gardaí on duty at busier times

A new policing shift system which promises to have more gardaí on at busier times is set to start in four weeks’ time.

The pilot system is part of the Croke Park agreement and follows exhaustive and difficult negotiations between Garda management and staff associations.

The system, starting on April 30, is based on a critical audit of the current system by the Garda Inspectorate, published in 2010.

Rosters will feature at both the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which starts today, and that of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), later this month.

While the leadership of the unions have agreed to the pilot, many members have expressed opposition or reservations to the changes.

Two motions at the AGSI conference will raise the issue.

One calls for the “views of the broad membership” to be “properly reflected” at the roster review meetings.

The new roster will replace the current system whereby there are three shifts — early, late and night — operated by four so-called regular units, one of which rests each day.

A feature of the current system is that roughly equal numbers of gardaí work in each shift, regardless of the level of demand. The new pilot system will have a series of overlapping shifts, which will vary during different days of the week.

At key periods — such as evenings and nights — two shifts will operate at the same time.

The current “three relief” system has been operating in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) since the 1970s.

The equivalent system in Cork, Limerick and Waterford cities was revised in 2002 which included an arrangement to allow superintendents alter the number in each shift. Elsewhere there are two “country rosters”.

The Garda Inspectorate slammed the system: “The current rosters for “regular” units in the DMR, Cork, Limerick and Waterford and other urban centres are overly rigid. The result is roughly equal numbers of gardaí being available for duty on each shift, regardless of fluctuations in the level of demand for police services.”

The report said the system placed unacceptable demands on gardaí and breached European laws.

It said the European Working Time Directive required daily rest breaks of 11 consecutive hours, a weekly rest break of at least 24 hours uninterrupted and a max average working week of 48 hours, including overtime.

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