Members of this Association clearly did not want to commit to the new Lansdowne Road Agreement that continued the idea of working 30 hours for free each year; for a level of pay restoration that fell short of what those hard hours were worth for each member. That was the clear message when some 86.5% of a significantly high turnout returned a resounding verdict. But there is now a clear and present danger that this democratic process is set to be punished by a government on a course of policies that further denigrate a Force trying its best to recover from apathy, anger, disillusionment, pay reductions, increased assaults, reductions in numbers – and the crocodile tears of our political leaders.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has now signed the commencement order for the FEMPI Act. This allows for the suspension of incremental pay increases on the garda pay scale. Who will this affect disproportionately? New recruits. There comes a time in garda pay where increments are no longer payable when longer service is attained and those members reach the top of the scale. This is the same government that removed both specified elements of basic pay for new entrants, and reduced their starting position on the pay scale too. As the public have heard through national radio and television, new recruits are struggling to survive on €23,171 per year in an era of rent increases and scarcity of property; and new mortgage regulations that make it near impossible for a member stationed in the Dublin Metropolitan Region to find anything other than a room in a shared house; and many have partners and children. The public finances are returning we are told – but this is how the ‘orderly unwinding’ of emergency financial legislation is unfolding.
It’s true that this Association has had its fractious relationship with the Minister who imposed the revised sickness regulations on our people, despite the unique nature of a garda’s job. But we did discover at the eleventh hour of our legal challenge that a trade union leader from a grouping that we are denied affiliation to, had contacted the Minister to canvass against us. Why would this be? This Association campaigned against Croke Park II, with some success, and were the first to sign off on the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA). That did not please the powerful in the trade union movement; and they have influence in some sectors of government.
So now we have seen the recent situation where the legislature have made it possible to punish gardaí for rejecting the Lansdowne Road Agreement. Many of those TDs who walked through the door enabling this legislation are those who condemn the assaults on our members and praise the courage and sacrifice made by our number.
In political terms we are being shepherded into a cul-de-sac where our grievances, desires and hopes are given lip service and ignored. But while this is happening there is a chink of light in that we now have an opportunity to discuss all of these under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. This full review of industrial relations and garda remuneration was agreed in the Haddington Road Agreement and was supposed to be completed by 1 June 2014. That date has long passed; but as we now are finally fulfilling our commitments under the HRA it is now incumbent on government to fulfil theirs. There is a glimmer of hope.
“The derived level of personal risk that each garda is assigned must be reflected in remuneration to compensate for any heightened or uncertain risk; public opinion now appears to reflect this. Few employments require the wearing of an anti-stab or an anti-ballistics vest as basic, standard safety equipment…”
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.