By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – An escalation of the garda pay claim campaign is expected to cause chaos on Friday when thousands of cops are planning to call in sick in a “blue flu” protest.
The 8,500 rank-and-file members are seeking a 13 percent pay rise and earlier this month 3,500 members joined a protest march to the Dail, where several Garda are permanently picketing the entrance.
P.J. Stone, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association, said the 24-hour protest was being organized by members and not the association but promised there would be adequate police cover during the day.
It is against the law for the gardai to strike, but in the past they have protested with en masse sick stoppages.
The force was originally offered a 5.5 percent pay raise, which was later increased to 7 percent.
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Gardai claim this is inadequate. They say they have fallen behind teachers and prison officers.
Stone said the association is in an invidious position because it is banned from striking.
“The membership and the grassroots of the association are absolutely at the end of their tether and they see no other option,” Stone said. “They are extremely agitated and they are extremely angry and nobody is listening to their just plea for a pay rise. It has been brushed under the carpet.”
Stone said there would not be an open day for criminals as a result of the sick stoppage. More than 25 percent of the force were in other ranks and they would provide cover.
“We have to be responsible. We will, as leaders of the association, give certain guidelines and clear directions. We cannot be seen to be pushing for something which is totally and absolutely against the law and we are not.”