Report: Gardaí shouldn’t get strike rights

Gardaí should be constrained from withdrawing their labour or given full trade union status, a top-level government body has recommended.

Report: Gardaí shouldn’t get strike rights

The finding is a blow to the two main Garda staff associations which sought full trade union status, including the right to take industrial action, up to and including strike action.

The recommendation was made by the working group on industrial relations structures for An Garda Síochána, which comprised officials from government departments, Garda management and the Workplace Relations Commission.

The group did, however, recommend that Garda associations be able to engage in future pay talks and given direct access to industrial relations mechanisms.

The body did not include any representatives from the main Garda staff associations.

In a key recommendation, the group advised: “That the members of An Garda Síochána should continue to be constrained from withdrawing their labour in any strike action likely to impact on policing, the security of the State or the maintenance of public authority.”

The conclusion differed from the submissions made to the working group by the Garda Representative Association (GRA), with 10,400 frontline members, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), with 2,000-plus members.

“The GRA have confirmed in the course of the consultation process that the normalisation of industrial relations in An Garda Síochána must include an entitlement to engage in industrial action, including strikes,” the report said.

“Their view is that agreed voluntary limitations on industrial action together with robust dispute resolution mechanisms could act so as to make industrial action unnecessary.

“AGSI have confirmed their view that Garda members should have the same entitlement to take industrial action as all other workers in the State, and consider that the EuroCOP decision supports this approach.”

The 2014 ruling of the European Committee of Social Rights found Ireland was in breach of the European Social Charter on three grounds: prohibiting Garda associations from joining national employee organisations; on grounds that the associations had restricted access to pay negotiations; and the associations were subject to a prohibition on the right to strike.

The working group said there was an obligation on it to consider the responsibility of the State and gardaí “to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of the essential services associated with policing and national security”.

The group said it was difficult to “consider any conclusion that might provide for or enable the withdrawal of these services”.

It said that lower-level industrial action, short of strike action, ran “contrary to the fundamental ethos of a disciplined force” and would have a “knock on” impact across the entire range of duties.

However, it noted the submission from the Policing Authority differed with its conclusion:

“The Policing Authority recognises that while an approach that seeks to identify duties or units that can be allowed to take industrial action could potentially impact on the unity and the disciplined nature of the force, the growth in the number of specialist Garda units and the statutory separation of security from policing in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 may provide a valid basis for such an approach.”

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