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EuroCOP & ICTU Respond to AGSI’s Successful EU Case


The European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) along with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) have released media statements responding to the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights.

Read the EuroCOP press release below

EuroCOP welcomes the Conclusion of the European Committee of Social Rights on the rights of Irish police officers

Luxembourg – 13 May 2014 – The European Confederation of Police (EUROCOP) welcomes the conclusions of the European Committee of Social Rights (the Committee) regarding the complaint lodged by EUROCOP against Ireland in June 2012. The Committee concluded that the complaint was admissible under Articles 5 and 6 of the European Social Charter (the Charter).

The complaint highlights the restrictions placed upon national police associations, notably the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), whereby they do not enjoy full trade union rights including the right to join an umbrella organisation.
The Committee upheld the complaint under Article 5 of the Charter on grounds of the prohibition of police representative associations from joining national employees’ organisations.

The Committee also found that Irish legislation failed “to ensure the sufficient access of police representative associations into pay agreement discussions,” as required under Article 6§2 of the Charter, and held that “the prohibition of the right to strike of members of the police force amounts to a violation of Article 6§4 of the Charter.”
EUROCOP commends the Committee’s conclusion and emphasises the right of the police and their representative associations to adequate trade union representation and equal access to channels for social dialogue. EUROCOP’s President, Anna Nellberg Dennis noted that “the Committee’s conclusions are a victory not only for the Irish police, but have important impacts upon police forces across Europe. By highlighting the fundamental importance of police rights, and educating European police officers about their rights to organise and to bargain collectively, the Committee has helped us draw more attention to those Member States that are failing to adequately provide for the social rights of their police officers.”
EuroCOP expresses its hope that the subsequent resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will include a clear recommendation for Ireland to amend its national legislation to ensure police officers’ rights are upheld according to the articles of the European Social Charter.

The European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) is the umbrella organisation for 36 police unions and staff organisations in Europe based in Luxembourg. It represents the interests of over half a million police officers in 25 European countries, dealing with issues which range from police cooperation across borders to a safer working environment for police officers on the street.

Read the ICTU Press release below

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (May 17) welcomed the decision from the Council of Europe upholding the complaint lodged by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) relating to the government ban on their participation in trade union action.
Commenting on the determination of the supervisory body (ESCR) of the Council of Europe on the complaint (83/2012) – lodged by the AGSI through EUROCOP  – Esther Lynch, Congress Legal Affairs Officer said:
“There is a common misunderstanding that international law requires countries to prohibit their police forces from taking part in trade union action. As this Determination shows, the opposite is the case. States can only restrict or deny rights in exceptional situations and where the State can give concrete examples of why the restrictions are ‘justified’ ‘necessary’, ‘appropriate’ and ‘proportionate’. Blanket bans, such as apply in Ireland, represent a violation of rights,” Ms Lynch said.
“In coming to their Decision the ECSR examined the specific situation in Ireland before concluding that there is no ‘compelling justification for the imposition of the absolute prohibition on the right to strike [for Gardai]set out in Section 8 of the 1990 Industrial Relations Act. As a result, the Committee considers that this statutory provision is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and, accordingly, is not necessary in a democratic society’ and held that Ireland is in violation of Article 6.4 of the European Social Charter.
“The 15 member Committee of Experts also held that the prohibition on the AGSI joining the Irish Congress Trade Unions (ICTU) was a violation of Article 5 of the Charter. The Committee went further and determined that Ireland is also in violation of Article 6.2 of the Charter on the grounds that it restricted access of police representative associations to pay negotiations.
“Across Europe, police forces already enjoy the rights sought by the AGSI, without any negative outcomes for national security. In fact it can be argued that some of the recent difficulties highlighted by whistle blowers arose from the desire keep police separated from other groups. Other uniformed services, such as Prison Officers,  are not denied the practice of their trade union rights. 
“While the ruling specifically refers to the situation of the AGSI it has implications for all ranks of Garda and the four police representative associations.

Ms Lynch said the government must “now take measures to bring the situation here into conformity with the Charter. For example, under section 18.2 of the Garda Síochána Act, the Minister for Justice is empowered to authorise the AGSI so they can apply for affiliation to Congress.”