The independent chairperson of talks between the garda associations and garda management over the implementation of proposed new garda rosters has strongly criticised the Garda Representative Association.

In a letter to the association's Interim General Secretary, seen by RTÉ News, chairperson Sean McHugh said that contrary to the GRA’s assertion, the proposal "does not contain immediate pay cuts" for large numbers of gardaí.

He accused the GRA of circulating "inaccurate, misleading and incorrect" information.

The GRA claimed the proposed new rosters and working-time agreement would "adversely affect the take-home pay of a significant portion of our membership" and unanimously agreed to reject the agreement.

It also said it would not put the proposal to a vote of its 12,500 members, rank and file gardaí, a decision which Mr McHugh called "inconceivable."

The chairperson also called on the GRA to correct "without delay" the "inaccuracies" in some GRA communications and reported in the media.

In a statement last night, the GRA said that it was "surprised and disappointed" with the chairman’s correspondence.

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Mr McHugh said in a letter to Philip McAnenly last night that it had been his intention to remain silent during the eight-week period during which balloting is due to take place.

However, he said he cannot do so when "inaccurate, misleading and in some case entirely incorrect information" appears to have been circulated.

He said it was "disturbing" that such reports include communications "purported to come from sources or agents on behalf of the Garda Representative Association."

Some he described as "problematic and/or distasteful," and an accusation that the proposal "contained most of what Garda Management wanted" was he said, "plainly wrong."

It does not, he said, "contain immediate pay cuts for large numbers of gardaí."

He said it was "incorrect" to say that "some members would see their pay cut by €8,000 a year".

For well over 70% of members, he said, "there would be reduced days of attendance and increased unsocial hours payments".

The GRA however said the proposed changes to terms and conditions of employment, along with the proposed new roster would "seriously inhibit a proactive work-life balance and work predictability.

It would "adversely affect the take-home pay of a significant portion of our membership," the GRA added.

It is unprecedented for an independent chairperson in a talks process between management and representative associations to criticise one side but that is what the facilitator in the talks between garda management and the garda representative associations has done.

A working group has been considering management proposals for alternative garda rosters for the past two years.

The proposed Rosters and Working Time Agreement 2022 was circulated last month, but was rejected by the GRA which also said it would not put the proposal to a vote of its members.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has been briefing its members on the proposal and will ballot its members on it in the coming weeks.

'47 additional days on duty per year' for some - GRA

The Interim General Secretary last month said it was "simply unpalatable to suggest that in the current economic climate that many of our members would be expected to work extra days and with a reduction in their income."

"We believe that these proposals will have a detrimental effect on many of our members' wellbeing and work-life balance, something we will not stand for," Mr McAnenly said.

In his letter, Mr McHugh told the GRA that he was "concerned" about the inaccuracies reported "in some communications within GRA members" and he called for these to be corrected "without delay."

The letters have been circulated to all parties to the talks, garda management and the four garda associations representing the ranks up to Chief Superintendent.

The GRA said it a statement it was disappointed by the independent chairman’s letter because the Association "greatly respects the confidentiality" of the talks in the interests of its members.

It also said it has not made any public statement on the talks and "would strongly suggest that any suggestion to the contrary be withdrawn", so as not to compromise any further discussions.

The GRA issued a statement on the 24 August following a specially convened meeting of Central Executive Committee unanimously rejecting the Rosters and Working Time Agreement.

GRA 'absolutely satisfied' information is correct

Meanwhile, GRA President Brendan O'Connor has said the GRA rejects the assertions by the Independent Chairperson and said it takes issue with some of the content of the correspondence.

"We are absolutely satisfied that the information we have circulated is correct and accurate and we certainly stand over anything that was issued by the GRA in relation to this very emotive and difficult issue for our members, which is causing a lot of disquiet and unrest for them at this stage of uncertainty."

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Katie Hannon, he said it is " unfortunate that private correspondence" between the GRA general secretary and Mr McHugh is in the public domain.

He said the proposed agreement would mean pay cuts for a significant cohort of members and more working days that would be shorter.

"The real issue that is really galvanising members is that they will be expected to turn up to work for so many extra days. There is a recognised cost-of-living crisis. Governments around the world are scrambling to ease the burden on workers and we have a group, a cohort of workers, who are being told they have to attend work at least 47 extra days from the agreed roster pre-Covid and up to 78 days from the roster they are working at the minute."

He said it is "simply unconscionable" and "beyond comprehension" to suggest this to any worker with the current crisis, particularly when the main contributory factor to the crisis is the cost of fuel and energy.

He explained why the GRA is not putting the proposal to its members.

"The GRA is a democratic organisation. Our conference this year took a vote that our association would not put out a proposal to any member that would propose a pay cut. I think that is an entirely honourable position, as a trade union, or the representative body, our hands are tied and unless that changed we would not be even in a position to."