herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Garda and teacher strikes loom as Government digs in on pay

Jim Mulligan, Donal Flannery, and Ciaran O’Neill of the of GRA outside the Dail.
Jim Mulligan, Donal Flannery, and Ciaran O’Neill of the of GRA outside the Dail.
ASTI president elect Ed Byrne. Photo: Collins

The threat of a crippling campaign of garda industrial action is looming larger after the Government refused to row back on a pay freeze set to hit over 6,700 members of the force.

Thousands of gardai and teachers yesterday became subject to a two-year pay pause under emergency legislation for failing to sign up to the Lansdowne Road deal.

It means they will not get their annual or long-service increments, which are due to be given to members at differing dates.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has demanded an exemption to the freeze until a crucial report on their terms and conditions is unveiled, or it will begin an "industrial campaign".

Last night it rejected a fresh attempt by the Department of Justice to heal the rift with a compromise on its demand that members work an extra 30 hours a year.

A copy of a Department of Justice proposal document put to the garda bodies has been seen by the Herald.

It revealed the department offered that the Garda Commissioner could decide what the hours were used for in consultation with their representative bodies.

It also offered the same bargaining rights as other unions, and the return of a rent allowance worth over €4,000 for new entrants by November.

In a letter sent in the last few days, government sources said the department offered that the hours could be used for purposes like training or briefing sessions.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Richard Bruton said he was hoping for "constructive dialogue" in a forthcoming meeting with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

This follows its rejection of the LRA and a directive to members to stop working the 33 Croke Park productivity hours in September.

ASTI, which staged a protest outside the Dail yesterday, said its main focus in those talks would be the abolition of lower pay scales that apply to new teachers. If the dispute is not settled, it has the potential to close schools in September.

Action

While recognising the threat of industrial action, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted the door remains open for talks with the unions.

"But that has to be done within the framework of the Lansdowne Road Agreement in respect of the 280,000 other public servants who have signed up," Mr Donohoe told the Herald.

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