DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish police officers will go on strike for the first time in November in a dispute over pay, their representative body said on Wednesday, the latest sign that industrial peace in the fast-growing economy is unraveling.
Ireland was spared the kind of walkouts and protests that beset fellow bailout recipients Greece, Spain and Portugal throughout the financial crisis as workers reluctantly stomached steep tax hikes and deep wage cuts.
Industrial disputes have re-emerged over the last 18 months as the recovering economy has become a breeding ground for contested wage demands.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents more than 80 percent of the police force, voted to withdraw service for four days.
The last time Ireland's police force took similar action, nearly two decades ago, they did so by calling in sick for a day, a so-called "blue flu", as the near 13,000-strong force is barred from striking under Irish law.
"This is not a blue flu action, members will not be reporting for duty. It's a withdrawal of services until such time as our pay and our conditions are addressed appropriately," GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis told national broadcaster RTE.
"The organs of the state have the responsibility to ensure that our entitlements are protected and they have failed us and compelled us to this position."
Ennis said the right to withdraw labor was one of the issues it was pursuing with government and that the choice to take "unprecedented" action had not been taken easily.
Ireland's army was put on standby when four-fifths of the force called in sick in 1998, leaving police trainees to back up senior officers who stayed on duty to try to limit the threat to security.
Ireland's Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) also said on Wednesday it would call a meeting of members next month where proposals relating to industrial action would be tabled in another clash over pay.
Many workers in Ireland feel they have yet to benefit from Europe's fastest growing economy, prompting a walkout at one of Dublin's two rail services earlier this year and six days of strikes this month by Dublin bus drivers who have threatened 11 more in October if pay talks do not succeed.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)