ÉIRE: Gardaí flex their industrial muscle: will others follow?

In an unprecedented display of militancy over pay and pension cuts members of An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) are undertaking what the media in Ireland are describing as a `work to rule’.

The 11,000 members of An Garda Siochána have been considering some form of industrial action for some time and late last year a possible ballot on industrial action was considered.

However, like many other European police forces An Garda Siochána is precluded from striking. Under the Garda Siochána Act 2005 it is a criminal offence for a member of the force to withdraw their labour or to induce anybody to withdraw their labour. On conviction the offence carries a penalty of up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to €50,000.

As a result the members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) – which is the de facto Trade Union – are operating a “withdrawal of goodwill” in protest over public sector pay cuts and the pension levy.

The GRA action includes a refusal by members to use their own mobile phones, laptops and cameras in the course of their professional duties.

Responding to the action a government spokesman said:

“An Garda Siochána continues to provide a full policing service to the community.”

The developments in Ireland may have greater, Europe wide implications, as budgetary constraints take effect in many countries.

Many police service representative bodies have their ability to pursue a forceful case for their members constrained by legal exclusion from the organised labour movement and a proscription on the ability to withdraw their labour. It is possible that such restrictions, if continued, could be challenged on human rights grounds.

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