Work stoppage by the gardai looms closer as middle-ranking officers -- inspectors and sergeants -- this week voted to join 10,500 lower ranks who have already voted to strike on four days in November.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) at a meeting in Athlone also voted to take industrial action on Friday of this week, well before next month’s work stoppages. They voted to refuse to log on to the PULSE IT garda information and filing system.
Then on Friday, October 28, the middle-ranks will again refuse to log on to the PULSE system and also refuse to carry out any administrative duties such as detailing officers for duty, processing files or responding to some correspondence from management.
AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham said her association, seeking a 16.5 percent pay restoration, had received legal advice over next month’s stoppages on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 after four years of failed negotiation.
Her 2,000 members now felt they had no option if they wanted to show the government how serious they are about pay restoration.
AGSI claims it is not striking, just “withdrawing labor” on the four Fridays in November selected by the rank and file members for their stoppages.
This will be the first joint stoppage by the two main garda unions, AGSI and the 10,500-strong Garda Representative Association (GRA). Only GRA officers were involved in a 1998 industrial action known as “Blue Flu” when members claimed they were too sick to turn up for work.
If the November stoppages go ahead, just over 300 officers from the rank of superintendent and above will lead a contingency plan involving up to 2,000 garda reservists, recruits in the Garda College in Templemore and probationers in the first months of their careers. The vast majority of this group, including almost 1,200 reservists, do not have the power of arrest.
In addition, the GRA said it will allow some of its members battling serious organized crime to work in emergency situations, and officers involved in intelligence-gathering and in the collection of forensic evidence from crime scenes should make themselves available on an on-call basis.
GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis said, “The association will be encouraging individual members to be receptive to skeletal cover in emergency and evidence gathering areas, and is mindful that on-going intelligence-led policing operations are not disrupted or adversely affected.”
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she was determined to find a way to resolve the dispute over garda pay, but insisted any resolution must be within the “very real constraints on public sector pay.”
As Fitzgerald updated her Cabinet colleagues on the crisis on Tuesday, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said that if gardai go on strike, people will never look at the force the same way again.