Garda ‘Blue Flu’ action day ‘not off the table’ during Joe Biden visit

A garda day of action during the US president’s visit next week has not been ruled out by members amid a growing row over schedules.

Two of the country’s largest garda associations will hold separate meetings this week as they are at odds with management over plans to introduce new working time arrangements.

New talks last week ended in deadlock with Garda’s commissioner Drew Harris indicating that the matter will be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Delegates from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), representing around 2,500 mid-ranking Gardaí, will meet this week at their annual conference in Galway.

Schedules will be the main talking point with sources saying delegates will discuss tomorrow what steps to take next, including a possible day of action. These discussions will take into account the high-profile visit of the US president Joe Biden to Ireland next week.

A source said there is “nothing off the table” regarding a possible day of action during the presidential visit.

However, no decision has been made on this yet.

Between 10 and 15 April, annual holidays and rest days have been canceled for all members, barring exceptional circumstances. This is to ensure a large presence in the garda for the security operation, which will see Biden travel to Mayo, Louth and Dublin over four days.

He will also visit Northern Ireland on the trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

AGSI members held a day of action last month saying they would not rule out a “blue flu” with garda members calling in sick on the same day.

An AGSI spokesperson said last week that it had made a number of suggestions on how to break the current deadlock on rosters, but these were rejected “much to their disappointment”.

The central executive committee of the Garda Representative Association, which represents more than 11,000 frontline Gardaí, will also meet on Wednesday to discuss what action it will take.

A GRA insider said the membership was angry after talks reached a “serious deadlock” last Friday. Member concerns about the new proposed working hours include potential loss of income, fatigue and the impact on work-life balance.

The Garda chief, who will address tomorrow’s AGSI conference, has previously denied any suggestion that he is trying to impose new rosters or that he has rushed the matter to the WRC.

In an internal message last month, he said the matter had been referred to the WRC after three years of negotiations, including 13 months under the independent chair of an industrial relations expert.

AGSI General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham said ahead of their conference that the mood among members was very low.

“Our annual delegate conference is timely as there is much to discuss, including what and how members will respond to the updates on this dispute, and to engage and listen to members about what forms of industry action they may want to take .

“AGSI has also raised serious concerns about the internal consultation process and will seek the formal withdrawal of the recent directive on gender identity in the workplace, due to the lack of consultation and awareness and especially in light of recent comments by the Garda Commissioner that the wrong sexing of a person can lead to discipline.”