However, sergeants and inspectors have put the ball squarely in the court of the Government to enter negotiations to prevent the matter taking a legal route.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is scheduled to meet, for the first time, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on November 8 at the same time the association’s national executive will seek legal advice from their solicitors on the matter.
AGSI branch representatives from around the country met yesterday at which they objected to the Government’s decision to bring in legislation to reflect the findings of a government review of Garda industrial relations.
The Murphy Report said the Garda associations should not be considered as trade unions and should not be allowed to take industrial action. The Garda Industrial Relations Working Group did recommend that the associations have access to industrial relations mechanisms but did not suggest gardaí should have a unique wage negotiating system.
AGSI general secretary John Jacob: “Essentially, John Murphy is telling us: ‘Yes, you can have access to the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] and the Labour Court, but you can’t strike or you can’t have access to an independent pay review structure, while other bodies can strike and can take industrial action.”
The Murphy group, set up as part of proposals to avert the Garda strike a year ago, comprised senior civil servants, Garda management and the WRC, but did not include garda associations, independent legal experts or the Policing Authority.
Following the publication of the report, the Government agreed with its recommendations and said it would draft legislation to implement them.
Mr Jacob said the association would now seek legal advice on taking an action before the High Court.
“We have to examine whether we are being disadvantaged by this process,” he said. “It may well be that, after legal advice, we don’t have a legal argument, but it would be remiss of us not to consult legal expertise to determine are we being treated fairly or unfairly.”
He said the national executive is meeting on November 8-9, at which they would request their solicitors, DAC Beachcroft, to provide it with legal advice on the matter.
After repeated requests, he said the association had secured its first meeting with Mr Flanagan on November 8.
“This is not a meet and greet. We will be bringing our concerns to the table for him to address,” said Mr Jacob.
He said the AGSI recognised the Government had a problem with the prospect of gardaí striking or taking industrial action. However, he said these were “fundamental union rights” and that without them an association cannot progress their cause. “If they do not give us the right to strike then they have to give us some other way of advancing our case,” said Mr Jacob.
He said there was a special pay review mechanism in the North and in England that police could use and that this was also being denied to gardaí.
“We would prefer to negotiate with the Government about this rather than considering legal action.”
The AGSI meeting yesterday also prepared for the ballot, being issued next Monday, on the new public service pay deal.
The result of that ballot is also due on November 9. AGSI is recommending acceptance.
The Garda Representative Association yesterday said 63% of its members that voted had accepted the deal.
Only a third of eligible members took part.