121 gardai earn 'minus' pay in new debts blow
STRUGGLING: Officers may be forced to quit
MORE than 100 gardai earned minus figures in their pay packets last week as pay cuts and tax hikes take their toll.
The pay section of An Garda Siochana sent a notice to its members last Friday alerting them that 121 gardai had hefty outgoings subtracted from their salaries last week.
Deductions from garda pay include PAYE, PRSI, the universal social charge, pension levy and extras such as garda medical aid, and weekly subscriptions to the Garda Representative Association.
A spokesperson from the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said some gardai are in serious financial straits because pay was reduced by about €116 a week last year, and again by a further €26 this year.
Damien McCarthy, president of the GRA said: "It's about struggling to survive at the moment. We have an enormous uphill struggle along with the cutbacks and stress from workload, and morale is so reduced because of the moratorium on overtime and recruitment."
Last weekend, it was revealed that the Garda's Dublin Credit Union, the largest in the country, has curbed the size of loans after admitting to members that it has "doubtful debts" amounting to €13m.
St Raphael's Credit Union has informed its 38,000 members in its annual report that it is still managing assets of close to €350m and has a cash reserve of €41m. It has announced that from this year a cap of €60,000 is being placed on loans.
Gardai say many young members of the force who have taken mortgages and loans are now in severe financial straits as cutbacks in salary and a near complete ban on overtime are imposed.
Many had taken out loans based on maximised salary and allowances.
Garda McCarthy said: "We were recruited in the false economy, and we were under the understanding that the income would be set in stone -- 7,000 gardai in the past 10 years started in the guards, and the majority of these people think of buying a house.
"And we were granted mortgages on the basis of what we were earning at the time."
Gardai risk losing their jobs if civil action is taken against them for debts, and they are disciplined by An Garda Siochana, according to another GRA spokesperson.
Another GRA spokesperson said: "Because of the garda code, and rules and regulations of employment, they are not allowed to have civil debts. It's a disciplinary offence. So many guards could lose their jobs. We know for a fact that many members are in arrears."
"It's only a matter of time before people are taken to court for a civil debt."
It is understood that there are now instances of young gardai sleeping in rest rooms in garda stations and cycling large distances to work because they can't afford fuel or repayments on their car loans.
The spokesperson added: "So many face mortgage repayments, and 60 per cent of them came out of Templemore in 2000, and they were all buying houses during peak times.
"Many borrowed during their garda training based on what income was due to be paid. A lot of them borrowed the maximum you could borrow to buy a family home."