Special pandemic list for gardaí expanded to defuse dispute – The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has sought to defuse a deepening dispute over Garda rosters by extending special pandemic rosters by an additional six months. The move came on Monday night, just hours after Garda sergeants and inspectors decided to get involved in “days of action”.

They have also raised the possibility that they could retire their service, a strike in all but name if new rosters were introduced.

Those proposed new rosters, which Garda members say will result in more workdays and a loss of allowances, were slated for rollout in mid-April. They would have replaced the Covid-19 rosters under which Garda members work 12-hour shifts with new shorter and more frequent shifts.

On Monday morning, 140 members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) met in Athlone, Co Westmeath and unanimously agreed to get involved in “days of action”.

The first such day is scheduled for next Monday, when 100 off-duty members of Agsi will hold a protest march to Garda’s headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, and hand in a letter with their grievances about the new proposed rosters.

Agsi General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham said on Monday that depending on the response to her march and letter, further days of action would be discussed at the association’s annual conference in Galway early next month. She said she cannot rule out the possibility that its members, as individuals and not in a move organized by Agsi, decide to withdraw their service in protest.

Garda members are not permitted to take part in strikes and organizing such an action is a criminal offence.

Ms Cunningham said her members were very upset about the roster situation and the uncertainty it has created for their working lives. She added that relations between her federation and senior Garda management had almost completely broken down.

However, last night Garda members were informed in an internal memo from Garda headquarters that the current pandemic roster, based primarily on 12-hour shifts, would remain in effect until September 3. This six-month window will now give the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) time to bring all parties together and try to reach an agreement after three years of failed talks.

In response to inquiries, Garda Headquarters said Mr Harris wrote to the WRC last month to request assistance from its Arbitration Service in reforming Garda rosters. The WRC has since confirmed that their services would be available and Mr Harris hoped the Garda staff organizations would agree to attend.

Despite three years of talks and the exhaustion of all mechanisms within Garda without consensus, Mr Harris was anxious to “find a solution as soon as possible”.

Whatever roster is drawn up, it should be one that “serves the public and supports those most vulnerable in society, ensures the health and well-being of gardaí and allows the commissioner to run the organization effectively and efficiently within the budget available.” administer”.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gardaí have been on a special roster that maximizes the number of people on duty and means members work four 12-hour days followed by four days off.

These rosters have proven very popular as they mean Garda members work more hours on fewer days, which is seen as more family-friendly.

It also reduces the costs associated with commuting to work, especially fuel. The 12-hour shifts also mean an increase in unsocial hourly pay.

Mr. Harris wants to introduce new regulations that he says better meet the changing policing needs of the Republic. The matter has become something of a battle between him and the Garda staff associations and threatened to escalate sharply on Monday.

When negotiations failed to reach an agreement in recent years, a mediator was called in, although both the AGSI and the GRA refused to accept his conclusions.

The proposed new roster system would mean Gardaí being used for a mix of eight, 10 and 12 hour shifts. Frontline Gardaí, who must work a mix of night and day shifts, would mostly have 12-hour rosters.

Non-Core Guardai, such as detectives, community police officers, and others who are not on 24-hour duty will mostly be on eight-hour shifts. It is rejected on the grounds that it involves fewer days off and, as some Garda members say, a loss in allowances of up to €2,000 a year. The new proposed roster is also seen as less predictable.

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/2023/03/07/special-pandemic-roster-for-gardai-extended-in-effort-to-diffuse-row/ Special pandemic list for gardaí expanded to defuse dispute – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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