Last year, lengthy negotiations took place between representatives, management and officials of the Department of Justice and Finance. The changes to the traditional but highly complex “three discharges” system began after it was found, as revealed last year in the Sunday Independent, that the old system violated EU working time directives. The new lists have been developed within our existing budget at no additional cost to the taxpayer, while their design allows for a more efficient match between labour supply and labour need. For example, the new list includes overlapping shift models. Overlapping periods provide for a 25% increase in the number of employees employed at these times. Overlaps increase in duration and change to coincide with periods of increased demand. The minister says police can no longer be required to work without rest or meal breaks Comments A new system of six-day police shifts and four days off, which will be introduced in the coming months, could allow gardai to receive 174 days of annual leave. The Directive, which was adopted for health and safety reasons, recognises the need for rest periods during working hours as a fundamental right of workers in the EU. In particular, if a working day lasts more than six hours, each employee is entitled to breaks. When the case was called, Judge Paul Gilligan was informed by Eileen Barrington SC for both Gardaí that the case would not continue.
The implementation of a new garda list is an important development and it is the first time in more than forty years in An Garda Síochána that the lists and working hours have been fundamentally changed. This is all the more significant considering that the lists have been agreed and implemented in the context of the reduction of financial resources, the competing demands of all parties concerned and compliance with the European Working Time Directive and the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate. Gardai is expected to begin a six-shift cycle as early as this April, followed by four days of vacation. In addition to vacation days, the gardai have their annual vacation. During the predominantly night shifts, the Gardaí stated that they were not entitled to rest or a meal break, nor to overtime payments for periods when they could have benefited from such breaks during their work. I am aware that the design and development of a new list for an organization as large as An Garda Síochána is very complex. The need to meet many different requirements adds to this complexity. I would therefore like to underline the commitment of the Garda staff associations during a long and long negotiation phase, which ended in a collective agreement without external participation.
However, major lifestyle changes over the past decade have had a profound impact on guard working conditions on the shiftwork system. Many young Gardai bought houses and apartments during the property boom, but due to soaring prices in Dublin, they decided to buy far outside the city. Travel times meant that many were heavily burdened by the lack of free time. The proposed new system for 24-hour policing, based on a model used in some UK police companies, now provides that working hours fall under EU rules. In their case against the Commissioner of the Garda, Ireland, and the Attorney General, Gaine and Harrington demanded explanations, including that the section of the 1997 Act that excludes gardaí from the scope of the EU Directive violates both the EU Working Time Directive and the An Garda Síochána Code. .