HUNDREDS of rank and file gardai across Limerick are likely to participate in industrial action over proposed pay cuts if, as is expected, such a move is approved by the executive council of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).
To date, the GRA, which represents more than 500 members of the force in Limerick, has refused to engage in talks about any new Croke Park deal which involves reductions in salary.
The proposed cuts include reductions in overtime, premium payments as well as weekend and holiday payments.
The GRA, many of whose members took part in last weekend’s anti-austerity march, argues that such payments form part of the gardai’s core pay and should not be targeted.
“Gardaí are facing great financial hardship while continuing to provide great dedication and commitment to the community. Our members cannot pay their loans and mortgages. Pay cuts are not an option,” it said in response to the proposed cuts.
Members of the GRA across Limerick have attended meetings - at both district and divisional level - over the past fortnight to discuss their stance ahead of this week’s meeting of the executive council in Dublin.
Sources have indicated that members expressed overwhelming support for engaging in some form of industrial action if the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, continues to push ahead with his cost-cutting plans.
While it is illegal for gardai to strike, other options open to them include a work-to-rule or a so-called “blue-flu” action, as was seen in 1998.
“There is only so much we can give and you can’t get a blood out of a stone,” one city-based garda told the Limerick Leader this week.
While the result of the ballot of Limerick members was not disclosed, GRA members in a number of other divisions are reported to have agreed that all forms of industrial action - up to and including full withdrawal of labour, should be on the table.
Several garda sources have said morale in the force locally is at its lowest for some time.
“When you take into account the station closures, the lack of patrol cars and now these cuts you have to seriously consider your options,” said one member of the force.
The proposed cuts follow on from the closure of six garda stations closed across Limerick at the end of January.
In addition to the closures, which came on top of the closure of Doon and Shanagolden garda stations last year, Askeaton garda station will be downgraded in the coming months once the merger of the Newcastle West and Askeaton garda districts is complete.
On top of the closures, the number of gardai in the Limerick division is at its lowest level for more than five years.
Last month, Chief Supt David Sheahan confirmed the figure has now dropped below 600 for the first sime since an additional 100 gardai were allocated to the Limerick division as part of the Regeneration process.