Garda associations should not have same status as unions, says Government study

Gardaí should not be allowed go on strike and new measures should be put in place to stop lower-level industrial action affecting its “essential services”, a Government-commissioned report has urged.

It says Garda associations should not be given the status of normal trade unions, as they had requested, and the force should not be allowed its own method of negotiating pay separately from other public sector workers.

Any moves to allow industrial action “would have a significantly disruptive effect on Garda morale and effectiveness” given the ethos of discipline in An Garda Síochána and its responsibilities for policing, national security and border control, it said.

A working group on industrial relationships within An Garda Síochána was established after a threatened strike in the force last year. It included senior civil servants, members of Garda management and representatives of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

An outline of the report’s initial findings are contained in a memo to be brought to Cabinet today by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs Frances Fitzgerald.

The group was set up to examine issues surrounding the granting of access to the WRC and the Labour Court to Garda representative associations.

Such access was granted by the Government last year after the threatened strike by members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

‘Legitimate dispute’

While the report says there is no “right to strike” in Irish law, legal protections offered to workers in a “legitimate dispute” are not available to gardaí.

“The recommendation from the working group is that the Garda should continue to be constrained from withdrawing their labour in any strike action,” the report said.

The GRA and AGSI had pushed to be given trade union status and this had also been suggested by the Horgan Report on industrial relations in the force late last year.

“The view of the working group is that the unique requirement of An Garda Síochána would not be served by reconstituting the Garda associations as trade unions, and that trade union status would generate conflicts with the ability of gardaí to carry out policing duties, particularly in relation to policing protests or trade disputes by unions or with regard to affiliation to Ictu,” the report said.