Gardai threaten industrial action if row goes unresolved

General secretary Ronan Slevin (PA)
General secretary Ronan Slevin (PA)

Rank-and-file gardai have threatened to withdraw their labour if a deepening row over rosters is not resolved.

The proposed move is one of a series of steps agreed by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in response to the dispute with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris over the reimplementation of a pre-Covid roster system.

Members of the body are also planning to decline to work voluntary overtime on the five Tuesdays in October – dates that include Halloween and Budget day.

They have also vowed to continue to operate the current roster system of four days on and four days off when the old system is due to come back into effect on November 6.

If there is no resolution, GRA members will withdraw their labour on November 10.

Mr Harris is trying to move from a roster based on gardai working four days on and four days off to six days on, with shorter shift times, and four days off.

The move has been strongly resisted by the GRA.

The escalation comes after almost 99% of gardai who voted in a ballot organised by the GRA expressed no confidence in the commissioner two weeks ago.

A meeting between the commissioner and GRA representatives on Tuesday ended without resolution.

The sides are due to hold further talks on Thursday.

GRA general secretary Ronan Slevin announced the new steps at the conclusion of a special delegates meeting in Kilkenny.

“We the officer board are not surprised by the decision of our delegates today,” he said.

“Two weeks ago, 99% of over 9,000 of our members voted no confidence in the Garda commissioner.

“What the delegates decided today was to reaffirm that position.

“Over the past two weeks, we had hoped that the commissioner would take stock of the feelings on the ground, with frontline gardai struggling with stress and low morale caused by uncertain working conditions and a poor working environment.

“We have tried to get the attention of the commissioner and impress on him the many concerns affecting his own workforce.

“However, what we have been met with is blind inaction and a dogged, single-minded approach to the roster situation, which has strengthened our resolve and reiterates the lack of confidence in commissioner’s leadership.”

GRA president Brendan O’Connor said the association and management were close to agreement at the weekend, with all sides agreeing to give some ground.

But he said the situation returned to an “impasse” at Tuesday’s meeting with the commissioner.

“We actually believe we were very close to a solution over the weekend and all the indicators were – from our negotiators behind the scenes – that we would not arrive at this point today,” he said.

Speaking in the Dail on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reaffirmed his support for Mr Harris.

Mr Varadkar said the logical next step is to go to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or the Labour Court.

“The only way to resolve differences is through talking and through engagement,” he said.

“If it can’t be solved bilaterally, and sometimes these things can’t be sorted out bilaterally through unions and management, it goes to the WRC or the Labour Court.

“Gardai fought very hard for the right to go to the WRC or the Labour Court and I believe that is what should now happen.”