By John McAuliffe
In an unprecedented event in Ireland’s history, An Garda Síochána are about to go on strike.
The Gardaí are usually not allowed to strike – so it is an unusual and an awkward situation that we are facing.
Strikes are scheduled for every Friday in November, starting this week on the 4th. The Garda Representation Association (GRA) made the decision to strike in September of this year.
Why are they going on strike?
The GRA aren’t happy with how the Government has taken An Garda Síochána for granted.
In a press release given at the end of September, the GRA disagreed with pay and working conditions by saying:
“We have exhausted every channel of industrial relations open to us. Government has taken advantage of our limited rights. Our members feel that we have nowhere left to turn. Gardaí do a dangerous, difficult and often thankless job. Garda pay has fallen behind others. Our claim for pay restoration has been ignored.”
As well as striking to raise their working conditions and pay, the Gardaí are striking against poor pay for new recruits – which is among the worst in the country. The Gardaí deem the rate unfair because of the dangerous and hazardous conditions that come with the job.
They also said that the Gardaí have “legitimate grievances” and that “95% of the GRA felt they had no option but to take industrial action”.
Access to industrial relations mechanisms is another key issue that the GRA want addressed, along with the fact that An Garda Síochána are the only group of public servants doing 40 hour weeks.
Rules for sick leave are on the agenda for the GRA to get changed. They feel they should have different rules, given the hazards of their jobs.
What is happening on the days of the strike?
According to the GRA, Union members will down tools on the days in question.
“Emergency services will still be available on the day but there will be no Gardaí answering calls in stations, no Gardaí on the beat and no interaction with the public.”
What is the reaction towards the upcoming strikes?
Many don’t know how to react to the news of the strikes. The closest thing to a Gardaí strike in Ireland was on the 1st of May, 1998.
Then, a total of 5,000 members called in sick on a day remembered as the “blue flu”.
In Dublin, 68% of the force didn’t show up for work that day. Throughout the rest of the country that figure was as high as 100%.
They were expressing dissatisfaction with pay, similar to the upcoming strikes now.
Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has actually gone against the workforce and has ordered all members to not take part in the strikes. She claims the dispute over pay could “irreparably compromise” Gardaí authority in the state, according to the Irish Times.