Gardai Retirement Age Threatened by the European Court of Justice *
Wise Up Journal
By Benjamin Smith-Kavanagh
According to the Irish Independent article “State facing EC row over Garda retirement age” senior officers of our police force are trying to take legal action against the Irish State, for being forced into early retirement at the age of 60, despite being willing and fully capable of continuing to do their jobs. They provide an invaluable service to An Garda Síochána and to the whole community of which they are a huge part of. But if anyone ever looked into where the European Court Of Justice stands on the issue of age discrimination, they would know that the European Court Of Justice stands on the side of government and business who openly have policies of age discrimination. The recent European Court Of Justice case were Spanish manager Félix Palacios de la Villa brought legal action against his employer Cortefiel when they forced him to retire at the age of 65, even though he was still able to do his job, highlights this point. As was reported by Dan Bilefsky in the International Herald Tribune “Top European Court backs mandatory retirement age of 65”
The European Court of Justice said that although discrimination based on age was illegal, the mandatory retirement of workers at age 65 could be justified to promote social policies such as improving employment. But it stressed that mandatory retirement must be accompanied by the adequate provision of pensions for retirees. “It does not appear unreasonable for the authorities of a member state” to consider such a measure “appropriate and necessary in order to achieve a legitimate aim in the context of national employment policy,” the 13-judge panel ruled in Luxembourg.
Turn to the sporting world for a moment; Should the Manchester Untied football manager Alex Ferguson been forced to retire when he turned 65? Since he has turned 65 he has guided Manchester United to wining the Premier League and at this moment Manchester United are top of the Premier League and favourites to win the European Champions League. According to this European Court ruling the Manchester United board would have every right to dismiss him based on his age alone and not on his performance as a manger. Just like these senior officers are being forced into compulsory retirement at the age of 60, it is purely based on their age and not on their performance as officers of the law.
The Irish Independent article continues with what the Equality Authority and the Garda legal department think about the senior officers complaint of age discrimination.
Dozens of compensation claims may be lodged against the State by some of the most senior Gardai in the country and the Government’s own Equality Authority is backing the claim — then the State could face compensation claims for dozens of senior officers who have been forced out at age 60 instead of 63. Superintendents, chief superintendents and even assistant commissioners are seeking to have their compulsory retirement age stretched three years to 63, a move which is supported by the Equality Authority — which comes under the remit for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Brian Lenihan. It has also been learned that despite the decision of Garda management and the Department to turn down the request to extend the senior officers’ retirement age, even the Garda’s own legal department has stated that there is no impediment to the extension of the retirement limit for the senior officers. The senior Gardai have become angered in the past two years because the present and last Garda commissioners, Noel Conroy and Fachtna Murphy had their retirement ages extended. Also two years ago, as part of the deal with the Garda Representative Association to accept the new Garda Reserve, the retirement age of Gardai, sergeants and inspectors was extended from 57 to 60. The senior officers’ anger was exacerbated by the decision to put the retirement age for members of the new Garda Reserve at 65. Now the senior officers — about 300 in all — are seeking to have their retirement ages extended in line with other management staff in both the public and private sectors. A case had been brought to the Equality Authority by the head of the Garda National Drug Unit, Chief Superintendent Cormac Gordon, who reached retirement age last Wednesday and has left the force. The Sunday Independent has learned that just prior to his retirement, the Equality Authority stated in a letter to the Minister for Justice that Chief Superintendent Gordon should be retained in service. The letter from the Equality Authority — which is part of the minister’s own department — stated that the “compulsory retirement of Chief Superintendent Gordon is in breach of European Equality Acts and Council of Europe Directive 789/2000 (on retirement ages in the EU) and in these circumstances we would call on you to disapply the compulsory retirement provision .” “The Garda Siochana’s own legal department stated that it “does not see any legal impediment to the application in this jurisdiction of a compulsory retirement age of 63 for chief superintendents.
While one does feel it is the right of these senior officers to continue in their job, by going over the EU case which ruled:
“It does not appear unreasonable for the authorities of a member state” to consider such a measure “appropriate and necessary in order to achieve a legitimate aim in the context of national employment policy,”
It’s clear they will also rule with this case that the Irish authorities have every right to set the compulsory retirement of these officers at 60 in order to achieve a legitimate aim in the context of national employment policy, So rather than taking this matter up to the European Court Of Justice, these senior officers should take it through the Irish Courts were they would be entitled to have their case heard and judged by a jury of their peers.
At the same time just as the majority of senior officers would like to retire at 63 - 65 of age, there is mixed opinion between officers in different ranks. Many Gardai on the street have expressed a desire to retire at 57 while Gardai in different ranks have spoken about wanting to retire at a later age. This could be due to the differences in the work carried out by officers, and health reasons among various other issues. The Gardia working with the Irish Government could come to a fair solution by setting the retirement age at 57 but making it voluntary not mandatory. Gardai whom honored their duty requirements could retire at 57 recieving all the retirement perks they deserve and other officers could stay on until 70 plus if capable and willing. Any other solution is going to hurt one group. But if the treaty of Lisbon is ratified the officers who want to retire at different ages will no longer be able to come to national agreements with the Irish Minister Of Justice. They will have to accept what the European Court Of Justice decides is the best age for them to retire at, which will become uniform across every EU state. This will ultimately take away the power the Garda associations and officers have now, in being able to bargain on a national level.
Here is an example of someone who raises the issue of age discrimination on a daily basis feels about mandatory retirement, as posted on the Age Concern website:
Our response to Government proposed EU directive age equality employment regulations
Gordon Lishman, Age Concern’s Director-General said:
“The Government has failed to embrace a real opportunity to move with the times and make forced retirement a thing of the past. In our ageing society, the economy will increasingly rely on the skills of older workers, yet thousands will continue to be shunted out of their jobs and denied the right to choose when to retire, simply because of their date of birth.“ “Ultimately the Government must see sense and reverse its narrow-minded decision to force people to retire at a fixed age so that everyone has the choice.”
An Age Concern / ICM poll found that British workers think fixed retirement ages belong in the past. Almost three quarters (72%) of people regardless of age, social class or gender said they thought they are old fashioned and unnecessary.
Nine out of ten people surveyed agree that older workers should be able to choose when they retire.
The thing that is of the utmost importance for all Gardai to understand is that if the Treaty Of Lisbon is ratified, it will mean that EU law overrides National law 100%. So by taking in how the EU has already ruled in matters of compulsory/mandatory retirement, you should know that they have continually ruled in favour of Government and business over people who brought legitimate legal action While if these legal actions were taken before national courts in front of a jury of their peers, the chances are the jury would feel one’s anger and frustration at being forced out of a job you have spent most of your life doing and judge that you have every right to continue in your job.
If you want to keep bargaining and agreements at a national or local level, simply vote NO to the Treaty of Lisbon.