The Tánaiste made the controversial claim after the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors confirmed it is joining forces with the Garda Representative Association — and as Fianna Fáil urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step in to resolve the crisis.
In a controversial but well-flagged step yesterday, the AGSI said it is joining the rank-and-file GRA in unprecedented and illegal strike action next month.
Under moves confirmed by AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham, the high-profile group’s members will refuse to work on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 — the same dates as the GRA.
In addition, as part of “escalation measures” AGSI’s members will also decline to log onto the Pulse garda system or engage in any Pulse-related activities — including processing files and logging cases — this Friday and Friday, October 28.
AGSI said last night it is joining the move by the GRA — which has said they will ask the garda rapid defence unit and trainee gardaí to avoid strike action in order to ensure a skeleton force is retained — to win back 16.5% in cut pay and ensure access to the Labour Court which officers are currently prevented from accessing.
However, responding to the situation in a strongly worded statement, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the move is ignoring the wishes of AGSI members and is not in the best interests of the public.
Speaking after the AGSI decision was confirmed, the Tánaiste said she found the move “disappointing” as “they have not balloted their members” and it is “just seven weeks since their membership voted to accept the Lansdowne Road agreement by over 70%”.
Ms Fitzgerald said the decision to strike also ignores the “very significant benefits” in this agreement, which included “the restoration of the rent allowance worth over €4,000 or 17% annually to new recruits”.
The justice minister said her “invitation” to the AGSI and GRA to continue to meet with her officials in a bid to resolve the stand-off before the strike action dates are reached “remains open” and that she “would urge them to engage with my department to find a solution for their members”.
Mr Fitzgerald said she was committed to allowing gardaí access to the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission.
However, despite saying the Government’s focus remains on negotiation, Ms Fitzgerald made it clear the Coalition has no intention of changing its view that the called-for pay increases cannot be provided. “This [negotiation] must be within the parameters of the very real constraints on public pay.”
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar on Sunday warned gardaí any strikes would “change their relationship with the public forever”.
Last night, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan urged Enda Kenny to intervene, saying while he understands garda anger striking officers risk being accused of an “a la carte attitude” to the law.