Other Questions. - Garda Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.

Síle de Valera

Question:

8 Miss de Valera asked the Minister for Justice whether she has satisfied herself with the mechanisms of conciliation and arbitration for the Garda Síochána; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9148/97]

The Garda conciliation and arbitration scheme, which is similar to schemes operating elsewhere in the public service, provides for a conciliation council and an arbitration board for pay and other specified conditions of service of members of all ranks of the Garda Síochána up to and including the rank of Chief Superintendent. The scheme was first introduced in 1959 and, following a review in 1977, was refined and expanded to the satisfaction of all parties to the scheme. A copy of the scheme is available in the Oireachtas Library.

I am satisfied the conciliation and arbitration scheme has worked well. It has provided a valuable mechanism for Garda representative bodies to pursue claims for improvements in pay and conditions and a forum to discuss with the official side other issues of concern in the force. Any scheme of this nature ought to be subject to review from time to time to ensure it can meet changing requirements. A review was carried out in 1995 in conjunction with other similar schemes operating in the public sector and a draft of revisions has been offered to Garda representative bodies. It is hoped discussion of the revisions will commence in the conciliation council shortly.

In view of the level of crime what is the Minister doing about the contentious issue of Garda pay? It represents a distraction at present.

The Garda, like any other element of the State, is entitled to be concerned about pay. Its job is to investigate and detect crime. The conciliation and arbitration scheme was set up to give it an opportunity to discuss matters relating to pay, allowances, etc. The Deputy refers to recent calls by the Garda to address the issue of pay. The force is looking for a pay rise and is not alone in doing so. Almost every sector of society looks for a pay rise at some stage. Over the years the Garda received all general rounds of pay increases awarded to the public sector and also benefited from special increases, all of which were in return for agreement to co-operate with change and to improve efficiency. Constraints on pay, which are a vital ingredient in underpinning the overall strategy on targets of national programmes, affect all public sector workers and not just the Garda and it is not being discriminated against.

Current Government pay policy for the public service is contained in Partnership 2000. A fundamental review of Garda efficiency and effectiveness is under way which is examining the role of the force and how it functions. The group will make recommendations which will involve significant changes. It is expected that issues affecting the structure of Garda pay and allowances will be a very important element in the delivery of this change. Should the Government accept the recommendations in the report it would be reasonable that the restructuring of rewards would be looked at in the context of delivering that change under it.