Tuesday, 6 February 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Priority Questions
48. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to address the failure to ensure that the Garda pay deal applies to all sections of the force, including superintendents and chief superintendents, and that the anomalies that have arisen as a result of this failure will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5964/18]
In November 2016 a pay deal was agreed in the Labour Court between the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. It was always envisaged that all grades in the Garda would be awarded the increase on the basis of their involvement in the pay review chaired by Mr. John Horgan. That has not happened in this instance and we now have a situation where 166 Garda superintendents and 45 Garda chief superintendents are the only two groups that have not signed up to the new public service stability agreement. The reason they have not signed up is that the precedent that always applied - that the pay increases would be awarded to all grades - has not been followed by the Government. When does the Minister intend to resolve this issue and ensure there is consistency within the Garda when it comes to pay rises?
I am very anxious to have this issue resolved. The Deputy will be aware that, at the time of the potential Garda dispute in late 2016, the matter was referred to the Labour Court to develop a recommendation addressing the pay issues raised by the ranks of garda, sergeant and inspector. The recommendation applied, therefore, to those ranks only. The associations for superintendents and chief superintendents have consistently argued that the pay deal should also have extended to them. Arising from this, they have not yet signed up to the public service stability agreement. This is regrettable and means that the benefits that flow from the agreement are not yet being applied to their ranks.
Having said that, I met both associations recently and assured them that I and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are keen to resolve their issues. Clearly, this must be done within the parameters of public pay policy, using the structures that are in place to address such matters. In the meantime, I encourage the two associations to reconsider their position in regard to the pay agreement. I can assure Deputy O'Callaghan that I will use my best endeavours to resolve the dispute. I might add that the chair of the public service stability agreement oversight body has kindly offered her services to assist the parties and a meeting between the parties has been held. I expect there will be further engagement in the near future.
I am aware that the Association of Garda Superintendents, in particular, has referred to an anomaly having arisen as a result of the Labour Court recommendation in 2016. This relates primarily to the increases in earnings for those groups covered by the recommendation. Clearly, the increases awarded to the inspector rank had the effect of narrowing the pay differentials between the ranks of superintendent and inspector, and this is central to the current dispute.
I am personally committed to finding a resolution to this issue, as is the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe. I hope to see progress in the near future.
When the pay deal was agreed in November 2016 and the strike was averted, everyone assumed that the deal would include all ranks within An Garda Síochána, as had happened in all previous agreements. Mr. Horgan completed the report focusing on industrial relations procedures and recommendations and everyone assumed that the pay deal, as agreed, would apply to all ranks. It then appeared that there were agreed reports drafted for each of the different Garda associations and this led to the requirement for an agreed report for superintendents and chief superintendents. Those two ranks raised the matter with the previous Minister for Justice and Equality and, I understand, were given assurances that it would be sorted out. They were subsequently told it would be sorted at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, on the fringes of new talks. The WRC facilitated the discussions and departmental officials from the Departments of Justice and Equality and Public Expenditure and Reform agreed to extend the terms of the pay deal in full to the ranks of superintendents and chief superintendents. All of the payments were designed to ensure that they did not impact the Lansdowne Road agreement. Subsequently, the Department seems to have reneged on this agreement and is now denying the superintendents and chief superintendents the pay rise everyone assumed they were going to receive.
I note the Minister stated he is keen to resolve this issue but he should note that everyone assumed at the time that this pay rise and the pay deal would apply to all ranks. What we do not want to happen is that any pay rise for An Garda Síochána would be limited to some ranks, which would make industrial relations within the force even more difficult in the future.
The Association of Garda Superintendents and the Association of Garda Chief Superintendents were fully involved in the negotiations leading up to the WRC proposals for the public service stability agreement 2018-20. Following the conclusion of these negotiations, the Association of Garda Superintendents and the Association of Garda Chief Superintendents sought to engage further on their claim to receive the benefit of the awards made to other ranks by the Labour Court in order to resolve the 2016 dispute. The Association of Garda Superintendents and the Association of Garda Chief Superintendents have not yet signed up to the pay agreement and have indicated they will not even put the public service stability agreement to a ballot pending a satisfactory resolution of this issue. I would like to see the matter resolved. While the superintendents and chief superintendents have been seeking an award commensurate with that awarded to the other ranks, there have been no detailed discussions on the costs associated with their claim. As Deputy O'Callaghan will appreciate, the numbers are small, something in the region of 200 between the two ranks, and I do not expect that the additional cost will be hugely significant. Nonetheless, I am anxious to ensure there is a robust process which will allow for this issue to be dealt with in a way that will not impact adversely on the wider pay arrangements currently under way through the Minister, Deputy Donohoe.
I note the Minister wants this issue resolved and I share that hope. However, it is not going to happen unless the Government enters into talks with the two associations to resolve the matter. It is also important to point out that this situation is creating some bizarre anomalies. For instance, the top grade of a Garda inspector is now higher than the starting position of a superintendent by between €4,000 and €6,000 and this does not take into account overtime for which inspectors are eligible but for which superintendents are not eligible. It raises the question as to why any inspector would want to apply for promotion to the position of superintendent if he or she is going to be paid less. There is also a deficit in the new pay deal for the majority of superintendents in that, as they can now retire and claim their pension, they are faced with the dilemma that they have a permanent pension levy, and the absence of the pay deal applying to superintendents and chief superintendents means there is a significant risk they will retire early as a result of the failure to apply this precedent.
This is a problem that needs to resolved promptly. I think we all agree in the House that superintendents and chief superintendents are at the forefront of the challenge to change An Garda Síochána. We need their co-operation. This odd example where precedent is not followed needs to be departed from and the Minister needs to ensure that pay rises within An Garda Síochána apply to all ranks and not to some ranks.
I am conscious there are a number of anomalous situations on the matter of pay. I want to acknowledge the work of the chief superintendents and superintendents throughout the country in terms of the leadership they continue to provide to An Garda Síochána, particularly in these challenging times. I also acknowledge the role they have in terms of the ongoing programme of reform. However, neither the superintendents nor the chief superintendents have signed up to the public service pay agreement and, consequently, they are unable to receive the pay increases under the agreement until they sign up, or after the expiry of nine months, in accordance with the legislation. I want to assure them that my door remains open and that I am very keen to have this issue resolved, having regard to the history in this regard and to the leadership they continue to provide. There are ongoing discussions. I acknowledge the interest of other parties and I trust this issue will be resolved without any great delay being imposed.