By Cormac O’Keeffee
20th July 2015
Gardaí are being “hammered” by new laws which have led to a massive 42% cut in the cost of Garda sick leave.
Officers are reportedly coming into work sick, on crutches or seriously ill, and are failing to meet payments on financial loans because of the system, according to garda representatives.
Official figures show the cost of sick leave for gardaí fell from €22.9m in 2013 to €13.2m in 2014.
The new sick leave scheme for the public service was introduced in March 2014 and sparked legal action by the Garda Representative Association.
The GRA, representing 10,400 rank-and-file members, lost their case in the High Court last October, but have appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeal.
“The timing of the release of these figures is very interesting,” said PJ Stone, general secretary of the GRA, “as they could well bring pressure on the appeal coming up.”
The figures show the cost of the sick leave scheme for civilian members of the Garda Síochána fell marginally, from €2.8m to €2.5m.
The average days lost yearly through sick leave fell by 28% among gardaí, from 10.7 days to 7.7 days but remained at 12 days for civilian staff.
“It’s amazing there is no change in the civil service, yet the Garda Síochána is being brought into line, as it were,” said Mr Stone.
Under the new scheme, sick pay was cut in half: from six months full pay to three months full pay, and from a subsequent period of six months half pay to three months half pay.
Mr Stone said the issue for gardaí was, firstly, they were not involved in the discussions between the Department of Public Expenditure and public service unions.
Secondly, he said the scheme was applied retrospectively, to the previous four years. Before the agreement, the period within the force was the last year.
“I had no idea, three years ago, my sick scheme was going to change,” said Mr Stone. “If I had serious cancer then and fought it and beat it and I am sick tomorrow with the flu, I am immediately put off the payrolll because I was out sick for more than the 183 days over the last four years.”
He said gardaí were going on duty genuinely sick or with a serious illness. “I have members who are coming into work on crutches or who are out sick injured and off the payroll.”
At its annual conference last March, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, representing supervisory officers, said the first time some members discovered they were off the payroll was when they received a call from a financial institution to say a payment had not been made due to lack of funds.
Mr Stone said this was affecting members who are injured on duty. He said many members injured in the past were not recorded as injured on duty, but on sick leave.
He said members currently injured on duty are facing a massive amount of red tape. They may eventually get their money, but are off the payroll until the paperwork and examinations are cleared up.
“It’s an abomination how gardaí are being treated,” said Mr Stone.