By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The deepening row about Garda pay is now worsening crisis, according to the association of sergeants and inspectors, whose leaders say they are “fed up” with the ongoing dispute and warned they won’t provide emergency cover when rank and file stage their next “blue flu” protest.
The Garda Representative Association, at a day-long executive meeting last week, drew up a new plan of action that is believed to include two- and three-day bouts of the blue flu.
Another meeting will be held this week to finalize their plan.
The blue flu protests are being staged because Garda are forbidden by law from striking. During the first blue flu protest on May 1, more than 80 percent phoned in sick but cover was provided by senior officers and students and cadet Gardai.
The GRA, representing 8,500 gardai, pulled out of talks with the Department of Justice after an April 1 offer of a 5.5 percent pay hike.
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The government claims the total claim amounts to 39 percent and said there was no more money available unless it were linked to cost-saving productivity measures. There is concern that concession of a higher increase will have knock-on effects through the public sector.
The GRA says productivity can be discussed after an increase of 15 percent and the situation has remained deadlocked
The GRA has said future blue flu protests could hit Derby Day in Curragh and the two-day first visit to Ireland of the Tour de France cycling spectacular, which starts in Dublin on July and is expected to need more than 3,000 gardai.
George Maybury, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said the group will only work normal tours of duty if there is a new outbreak of blue flu and will not give overtime cover for “sick” rank-and-file members.
“Clearly, our people can’t be expected once again to be called into the breach to go way above and beyond the call of duty and do the duties of Garda on an overtime basis,” Maybury said. “We do not want to do that. Our members don’t want to earn overtime on the backs of our colleagues with whom we share the very same interests in solving the pay issue.”
He said the force had been locked out of the pay talks by the social partners, including the government, which expected the police to “accept the crumbs off the table and go off meekly.”
“That cannot go on indefinitely,” Maybury said. “It is time the government woke up and addressed this crisis before it becomes worse, because it looks like it is going to become worse. Our sergeants and inspectors are extremely angry,” he said.
“It is time the government grasped the nettle and sorted this out once and for all. It will destroy the force if it is not sorted out immediately.”