Plans by the Garda Commissioner to extend the emergency 12-hour garda roster introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic until the end of the year appear to have met internal industrial relations difficulties.
The Irish Examiner understands that there was an intention to issue an order on Friday announcing the extension, and associated changes — but that this has been delayed pending discussions with staff associations next week.
The contingency roster, introduced by the commissioner last March, was due to expire in September.
It is understood that the commissioner sought to extend the 12-hour roster for most gardaí until the end of 2020.
These proposals would affect the core roster — the frontline uniform gardaí who work in shifts over a full day.
In addition, it is thought that the non-core roster, which typically ends at 2am or 3am, was due to be replaced by a variety of rosters on October 5. It is thought that it is these variety of rosters, and the way they were being brought in, which sparked concern within the ranks and has resulted in industrial relations issues being raised with Garda HQ.
This matter, along with logistical problems regarding what was planned, is understood to have delayed the commissioner’s order.
Discussions with garda staff associations are expected to take place next week to try to resolve the outstanding issues.
The contingency roster, which replaced the 10-hour roster with a 12-hour roster, was part of measures taken by Commissioner Harris to maximise frontline gardaí in order to police Covid-19 regulations.
The contingency roster consists of four 12-hour shifts, followed by four days off. Gardaí also receive overtime, allowances and premium payments.
Garda HQ estimates that the changed roster increased policing hours by 25%.
A survey published earlier this month by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors found that three-quarters of its members were satisfied or very satisfied with the 12-hour roster.
More than eight out of 10 members want to see the roster piloted under normal policing conditions and for it to form part of national roster negotiations with staff associations.
Almost two-thirds said they are able to provide a more effective policing service under the contingency roster.
Eight out of 10 said the roster, in addition to extra resourcing, allows for more community-focused approach to policing.
In his July report to the Policing Authority, published this week, the commissioner said that as the Covid-19 pandemic continues it has been necessary to continue with measures and investments, including additional costs with operating the 12-hour roster.
The report said overtime payments are €5.3m in excess of budget, while salaries are €8.5m over budget.
At a public meeting with the Policing Authority last month, the commissioner cited the contingency roster when he was questioned about a drop in sickness absences from members in recent months.
He said that many members said they have found the contingency roster “a good bit easier on them”, including in terms of health and family arrangements and childminding.
He said the new roster seems to have taken a “considerable strain away” from their tours, indicating that the regular roster is more difficult.
Members said it is easier on their personal lives and that the new roster is “less debilitating in terms of fatigue”.