Proposed roster to adversely impact members’ lives, Garda association claims in High Court – The Irish Times

The body representing mid-ranking gardaí has launched High Court proceedings against the Garda Commissioner over proposed rostering arrangements.

In the action, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) claims the proposed arrangements, replacing those introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, will adversely impact on its members’ health, safety and family lives. The current work arrangements are due to end in October.

AGSI says it has engaged in talks and is committed to agreeing new arrangements, but that proposals put to it last year are not acceptable. It fears the commissioner will put a roster in place without the representative body’s agreement and wants the court to injunct the commissioner from unilaterally imposing a schedule on its 2,500 members.

It seeks orders preventing the commissioner from extending working arrangements put in place during the pandemic, and seeks orders that he exhaust all internal Garda dispute resolution procedures before seeking the assistance of the Workplace Relations Commission.

The injunctions, if granted, would remain in place pending the outcome of the proceedings.

The case came before Mr Justice Brian O’Moore on Tuesday, who on an ex parte basis granted permission for AGSI to serve short notice of the injunction proceedings on the commissioner. The case will return next Tuesday.

Paul McGarry SC, with John Berry BL, instructed by Sean Costello Solicitors, for AGSI, said an agreement was reached in 2012 between the Garda representative bodies and the commissioner about working times.

This Working Time Agreement (WTA), known as the “Westmanstown Roster”, was agreed in the context of the 2010 Public Sector Agreement. As a result of the WTA, which incorporated EU directives designed to enhance and protect employees’ health and safety, AGSI members were rostered to work 10 hours a day for six days, followed by four days off.

Counsel said this agreement remained in place until the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.

An Garda Síochána’s response to the pandemic involved members working four days on, on which they typically worked for 12 hours, followed by four days off. AGSI agreed to this arrangement because the commissioner had allegedly represented to it that the changed roster would be temporary and would only be in place to assist during the pandemic.

The Minister for Health made a declaration last March that effectively brought many of the State’s emergency responses to an end, counsel said. However, AGSI claims its members are continuing to work under the contingency roster put in place due to the pandemic rather than the one agreed upon in 2012.

Discussions involving the relevant parties about the implementation of new working time arrangements have taken place since last year, but no agreement on a new roster has been reached.

The proposed new arrangements, it is contended, breach EU law and the commissioner’s purported commitment to restore the 2012 WTA at the end of the Covid-19 emergency.

In a sworn statement to the court, AGSI general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said the proposed arrangements would also see a reduction in members’ days off. She said members are entitled to appropriate work-life balance to mitigate the harmful effects of working antisocial hours.

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