The Garda Representative Association has voted to withdraw voluntary overtime on five Tuesdays in October and withdraw all labour on 10 November if the current dispute over rosters is not resolved.
The vote came at a special delegate conference in Kilkenny, two weeks after 99% of GRA members voted no confidence in Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Rank and file gardaí want to maintain the roster system introduced at the start of the pandemic which sees gardaí working four 12-hour shifts on consecutive days, followed by having four days off. Management want to revert to the previous regime which involved six 10-hour shifts, followed by four days off.
According to the GRA, the previous system was used at a time when Garda numbers were higher and that, with fewer gardaí now available, it would not function well.
This evening at a special delegate conference, members voted "overwhelmingly" to take a number of actions.
No voluntary overtime will be undertaken on five consecutive Tuesdays in October, which includes Budget Day on 10 October; delegates will remain "on" the current four day on/four off roster from the week starting 6 November, despite Garda management's wish for the old roster to be restored from that date; and if there is no change in Garda management's position by then, "delegates have decided that he or she will withdraw his or her labour on the 10th of November," the GRA said in a statement this evening.
They added that, over the past two weeks, delegates had hoped the Commissioner "would take stock of the feelings on the ground with frontline gardaí struggling with stress and low morale caused by uncertain working conditions and a poor working environment".
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The GRA accused Commissioner Harris of "a dogged, single-minded approach" to the rosters issue which has "strengthened our resolve" and reiterated their lack of confidence in his leadership.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said today that the only way the GRA dispute can be resolved is through dialogue and she urged members to engage with the Garda Commissioner at another meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
"This is an industrial relations dispute and that is how it should be treated. The only way that this can be resolved is through dialogue and debate and discussion and engagement. There is a meeting organised tomorrow. The Garda Commissioner has offered a further meeting with the GRA to try and bring forward and resolve this matter and it is so important that all members are at the meeting tomorrow," she said.
'Hard to see' relationship improving
Earlier today, GRA general-secretary Ronan Slevin said they did not see a way forward until the 6 November "deadline" has been addressed.
"The Commissioner made it very clear yesterday at the meeting that the rosters will be imposed on the 6th of November, in his view, and he did not give us any cause for any hope that anything different would come from that."
He added that it's "hard to see" the GRA's relationship with the Commissioner improving. "We're very reasonable, we've been working very hard behind the scenes over the last number of days, discussing possible solutions to the impasse that's there at the moment. We believed that we had reached a point where we could progress matters, but [with] the decision of the Commissioner yesterday, all that was futile."
GRA president Brendan O'Connor said that the two-week period between the passing of the vote of no confidence, and yesterday's meeting, gave everyone an opportunity to find a way forward and "to take the tension out of the situation" but that has been lost. "It was dropped by the Garda Commissioner because we entered into those two weeks with good faith, with no pre-conditions, with an open mind trying to find a solution, we've been in discussions behind the scenes. We thought a solution was in sight, but a veto has been exercised by one individual, it would appear."
Ronan Slevin said the 6 November date is "completely illogical" because it will take four to six weeks to come to any agreement and six weeks to ballot members on any such agreement. "We have asked him repeatedly that that deadline be removed and he has refused repeatedly to do that, so it is the Commissioner's refusal that is causing this impasse and continues to cause this impasse and will not allow us to get into negotiations."
Brendan O'Connor said that individual members are suffering from the "uncertainty" caused by the ongoing row. "We're talking about parents, carers, people who have all sorts of difficulties and challenges in their life. Dates on maps are important obviously in relation to making decisions but it's the welfare of our members. It's been in the narrative recently that welfare was of paramount to Garda management but the way this has been approached shows a complete contempt for the welfare of our members as far as we're concerned and there's a growing anger and resentment among our members and how they're being treated."
In a statement, Garda management said that yesterday's meeting with the four Garda associations, including the GRA, was one part of "long-standing efforts" by all parties to get collective agreement on a new roster.
"A final decision regarding next steps has not been made," a spokesperson said, with all parties asked to consider possible next steps. A further meeting has been scheduled for Thursday to get feedback from the associations.