Wednesday 23 October 2019

Morale at all time low for 'striking' Wexford gardai

David Looby

MORALE is at an all time low among Wexford's 260-plus gardaí who will 'strike' on the four Friday's of November unless a meaningful proposal on pay restoration is tabled by the Government.

A Wexford Garda, who is among 200-strong Garda Representative Association union members in the county, said many gardaí are struggling to make ends meet and are frustrated by the lack of consistency in policing nationally.

For the first time ever senior gardaí downed tools on Friday and all members of the force will strike for the four Friday's in November unless a deal is reached.

The garda, who asked to remain anonymous, said: 'As it stands the withdrawal of labour is still going to take place. We will engage in more meetings with the department.'

Gardaí across the district have seen their wages reduced by around 20 per cent over the last few years.

'You also have guards who are married to other members of the public sector like nurses and teachers so they have taken a double hit.'

The low pay packet of €23,000 being paid to new recruits who are not entitled to incremental increases is another factor. 'The new recruit is doing the same work as the man in the car beside him or her and they're not getting paid the same because of the two tier pay system. The guards have not signed up for the Lansdowne Road agreement so their incremental rates are frozen and they are not allowed rent allowance.'

Gardaí have been subjected to a pay freeze since the beginning of July.

'With the anger that is in the Wexford division particularly the action will go ahead here unless there is a meaningful road map to pay restoration over the next two to four years.'

There are around 260 gardaí working in the county, with many travelling great distances for their shifts.

'Some members stay on their colleagues' couches for a few nights during the week as they have long shifts. We are not looking for pay increases; we are just looking for that money back.

'Since the foundation of the state there has only been the Blue Flu in 1998 so we've never gone down this road before. That will just tell you the level of anger out there in relation to pay restoration and working conditions. For people going to negotiate on our behalf and for them not to know the work we do, it's unbelievable.'

He said many gardaí are living week to week and month to month.

'They're relying on the "big cheque" every month which covers all your allowances and if that cheque is late you can come under serious pressure paying your mortgage. Gardaí are under a lot of pressure in County Wexford and across the country and it was only this year that we got a 24/7 helpline. The only glimmer of light in the county for guards is in the Wexford division with the new divisional headquarters opening next year.'

Describing morale as rock bottom over recent years, the garda said: 'Our numbers decreased so much during the recession and there is a lot of frustration about work practices like how we can't receive an external email, so if we want to get CCTV we have to literally drive to the location and insert a memory stick and download it. Sometimes we have to use our own mobile phones also, but things have improved with the Tetra radio system which was introduced a few years ago.

'What we do here in Wexford could be totally different to what they do in Waterford so there is no consistency across the job. It's hit and miss, we are just skirting by through luck some of the time. If something serious was to happen you'd have to ask yourself, how would we get by?'

The garda said this is not the fault of management in the county.

'It's down to the Government to recruit properly using the Census as parts of Wexford see their population treble like in Blackwater, Duncannon and Fethard in the summer months.'

The lack of a number plate recognition system on patrol cars is another frustration for members.

'That should be on every patrol car in the district and we only have one in Wexford and that is attached to the traffic core.'

Inspectors and sergeants across the county have joined in the action. On Friday they refused to log on to the Garda Pulse computer system at stations across the county.

On Monday last the leadership of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) decided 'overwhelmingly' in favour of joining their rank-and-file colleagues for four days of industrial action next month.

Individual members will withdraw labour on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 to coincide with the Garda Representative Association's industrial relations action for 'maximum impact'.

This Friday AGSI members will refuse to undertake any administrative duties such as detailing members for duty.

Irish law states that it is a crime for Garda members to induce others to strike.

However, the GRA and AGSI have managed to get around this by repeatedly stating that the days of industrial action have been presented as a decision taken by each individual member.

Wexford People

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