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Garda Commissioner says he won’t defer 6 November deadline for new staff roster

LAST UPDATE | 20 minutes ago

GARDA COMMISSIONER DREW Harris has said gardai will be expected to comply with a roster change planned for 6 November.

It comes after rank-and-file gardai threatened to withdraw their labour if the standoff with the Garda Commissioner over the reimplementation of a pre-Covid roster system is not resolved.

At a special delegate conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) yesterday, rank-and-file gardaí voted to strike on 10 November.

They also intend to operate a de-facto work-to-rule by not agreeing to work overtime on Budget Day and Halloween, as well as on 3, 17, and 24 October. 

The ongoing dispute centres around proposals to revise garda rosters, which has built up to a no-confidence vote by gardaí in the Commissioner. 

Harris met four Garda representative associations today.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for An Garda Síochána said that this was the fourth time the Commissioner and Garda management have met all the Garda associations in the last week.

“As part of long standing efforts to get collective agreement on a new roster, the Commissioner and Garda management will meet individually with each of the Garda associations next week,” the spokesperson said. 

“Throughout the three years of talks between Garda management and the Garda associations on a new roster that has involved over 60 meetings, the Commissioner has repeatedly stated that he is willing to compromise to reach agreement on a new roster,” they said. 

“There have been no preconditions to talks put down by the Commissioner and Garda management.

The spokesperson noted that in July, the Garda associations and the entire organisation was “given the agreed three months’ notice that it would be returning to the Westmanstown Roster on 6 November 2023″.

“The Westmanstown Roster is the only roster currently available that was collectively agreed to by all Garda associations and Garda management,” they said. 

“The Commissioner has also repeatedly stated that he and the Garda management team are available for intensive talks with the Garda associations to deliver a new roster that best meets the policing needs of the people of Ireland and gardaí. The Commissioner re-iterated that invitation again today.”

‘Can’t wait beyond 6 November’

Speaking this evening, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was asked about the GRA’s request to delay the roster change beyond 6 November 6.

Harris said: “The rationale is around visibility and service delivery. As commissioner with responsibility for an efficient and effective policing service provided and being held to account for that, I can’t wait beyond the sixth of November.”

He said the current roster is more expensive and provides “poor service” delivery.

The GRA has vowed to continue to operate the current roster system of four days on and four days off, despite the order to change it.

Commissioner Harris said: “We are a disciplined organisation. Individuals have already been informed what their duties are and they will be expected then to parade for duty on those days.”

Asked if he was proceeding with the roster change due to a concern that he could not be seen to back down, he said: “This isn’t a personal issue for me. This is a professional issue in terms of providing a policing service to people of Ireland.

“We’ve already set out the rationale for why I’ve made this decision: This is a professional policing decision in terms of how we police and provide crime prevention, detection, and also a national security service here.”

Harris added that he “completely and entirely refutes” the claim from the GRA that he had shown contempt to its members.

He also said he would not “speculate” on disciplinary measures for gardai who withdraw their labour.

“We’ll have to see what happens on that day.

“There’s no clear indication that there’s going to be a withdrawal of labour beyond those individuals who are members of the (GRA) executive stating that they intend to do so.

“So we await developments over the next couple of weeks.”

Budget Day

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland earlier today, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that the Commissioner has assured her there will be a “sufficient presence of gardaí on the ground” on Budget Day.

The matter is a particularly sensitive one in the wake of the aggressive anti-immigration protest outside the Dáil last week that saw TDs across the political spectrum threatened.

Drew Harris this evening said that there would be an adequate policing plan in place.

“We don’t wait till the morning of the 10th of October to see who turns in voluntarily,” said Harris. 

“Individuals are detailed and properly briefed for those sorts of duties and will be notified in advance of their requirement to work.”

Speaking on Morning Ireland, McEntee described the decisions taken among gardaí on industrial action yesterday as “regrettable”.

“I think the facts are very clear here. There’s nobody, and that means the Garda Commissioner nor the Garda associations, who believes that either the current roster or the previous and incumbent roster is the right roster moving forward.”

The minister said that “we all want to negotiate a new roster that is suitable for the needs of the public today and that works for members of An Garda Siochána”.

“The only way that that can be found is through negotiation,” she said.

“There will be a meeting today between the commissioner of An Garda Siochána with the four associations and it’s absolutely imperative that all four associations including the GRA are around the table for that discussion.”

During the meeting earlier today with Garda representatives, Harris asked for the position of garda representative bodies on the question of escalating the dispute resolution to the Workplace Resolutions Committee.

There was some disagreement between the representative bodies on how far they want to escalate the matter.

The Journal understands that the GRA wants to continue to have group discussions and told the Commissioner it is prepared to “actively engage with discussions” if a deadline of 6 November for introducing the contentious roster is halted.

Harris said there will be bilateral meetings next week between him and the individual representative bodies.

Additional reporting by Press Association and Niall O’Connor