Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last night said she had tried to build a relationship with the Garda Representative Association and did not want to see a freezing of increments for members.
Members with the GRA and secondary teachers union ASTI face penalties from today as they have not signed up to the new work and pay Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Middle-ranking gardaí with the AGSI on Wednesday said they would put the new pay deal before its members in the autumn and advise them to support it.
But a Government effort to get the GRA onside has failed — with the result that the country could be facing industrial action from rank-and-file members.
The previous Haddington Road Agreement , which had imposed pay cuts and increment freezes on public servants, expired last night. It is replaced today by the LRA, which allows for pay restoration. But workers not signing up to the new deal will not get its “benefits”, say the Government.
As part of emergency financial laws called Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest), which the Government renewed this week without debate, unions who are out of the LRA face the loss of the restoration of pay cuts as well as a freeze on increment payments.
It is estimated that up to 6,500 GRA members may get a pay freeze. GRA president, Ciaran O’Neill, said that if this happened, gardaí would have no alternative but to take industrial action.
Teachers have warned they may withdraw from some working hours in the new school year if they are sanctioned for not signing up to the LRA.
There was disruption in the Dáil yesterday as opposition TDs complained that the Fempi legislation had been reinstated without any debate. Outside Leinster House, ordinary Garda members also held a protest.
James Morrisroe, of the Cavan/Monaghan division said: “I’m here to show the Government that we’re not going to take this lying down. We have new recruits on a €23,000 salary per year — that is below the national minimum living wage. I think the public would see that as being a scandal, a national disgrace.”
John Parker, from the Mallow/Cork division, said: “Under the Haddington Road Agreement there was a review of An Garda Síochána pay conditions to be conducted and they didn’t complete that. Here we are with the Government putting a gun to our head trying to sign us up to another agreement for another two years without keeping their side of the bargain. Until they do that, not one step further. The review looks into pay, conditions of service, health and safety; how we can provide a better service.
“Our executive and our members on the ground last time were willing to take every step necessary and nothing was off the table. There will be no slow burn on this occasion.”
GRA members insist they will not engage in talks about the new LRA until a review of their pay is completed.