herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

'I'll break law if I have to', says garda leader in call for protest on pay cuts

Delegates at the AGSI conference (Keith Heneghan)
Delegates at the AGSI conference (Keith Heneghan)

The General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has said he is willing to go to prison over Garda pay demands.

Garda supervisors are threatening to break the law and take strike action in support of their pay claims.

Mid-ranking gardai will now hold a special delegate conference in June to debate a range of protest options, including a strike, if there is no progress on their claims for a restoration of pay rates to pre-2008 levels.

Association general secretary, John Jacob was given a standing ovation when he said he accepted it was possible he could be prosecuted for promoting a withdrawal of labour.

"Right now, unless there's progress on pay discussions with us as an association - I don't know if I'm going on that holiday in June with my family or whether I'm going to prison for causing disaffection, but colleagues I'm prepared to do that," he said.

The annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors in Westport yesterday gave the go-ahead to its national executive to launch an immediate protest campaign.

Strategy for the campaign will be planned by the executive immediately after the conference ends this afternoon.

This is the first time that a strike has been put on the agenda by the gardai and it underlines the growing anger and frustration in the ranks over the failure to meet their claims.

They said they had been promised that the rates would be restored when the recession was over and on that basis they had agreed to cuts that reduced their wages by up to 30pc. But those promises had not been fulfilled, delegates said.

Mr Jacob was promised the full support of cheering delegates. He said he did not want any conflict but he shared the passion of his members for a restoration of pay levels and he was prepared to break the law although he did not want to go to prison.

Mr Jacob pointed out that the AGSI was traditionally a conservative organisation but said they had become very militant.

He said that if he had proposed a march on the Dail three or four years ago, he would have been "laughed out of court".

"Now people are insisting on it and in our survey 90pc of members supported industrial relations activity like work to rule," he said.

"The industrial action starts today. The battle lines are drawn."

It is likely to include a march on the Dail, possibly in uniform, on the first day of the new government, pickets outside the constituency offices of TDs and government ministers and then culminate in a decision on a strike.

Support

The AGSI is to seek the support of rank and file members of the Garda Representative Association as well as retired colleagues in their campaign.

Meanwhile, a video showing the shocking level of abuse which gardai are regularly subjected to while carrying out their duties has emerged.

The video, which was played during the conference features an angry and abusive man threatening the garda and his family after he was arrested, and the garda read his rights.

The suspect begins by threatening the garda screaming: "Guard or not, I'll f*****g lop the head off you."

In one of the most chilling moments the man then threatens the officer and his family.

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