On Friday 1st May 1998, and again on Saturday 13th June 1998, the gardai - the Irish police force - went on strike for 24 hours.

Let me just say that again: the police went on strike. For 24 hours. Twice.

By law, the gardai are not allowed to strike, understandably enough, but they wanted a 15% pay increase instead of the 5.5% they were offered. And so the "blue flu" hit - officers were encouraged to call in sick for 24 hours, on these two separate occasions (so as to avoid the legal implications of an actual strike, but still staying away from work while getting paid). It was estimated that between 25% and 28% of officers were on duty for those 24 hours.

Can you imagine it? The cops, on strike - there must have been a crime spree, surely, the criminals must have gone on a rampage, right? Nope. What about in Dublin, that's the capital city, wasn't there any looting or violence? Zip. No serious incidents, no noticeable increase in crime during the 24 hours. There are two theories to explain this:

1. The bad weather that kept people inside, combined with the legendarily capable private security (read: mindless thugs) in clubs and pubs meant that likely trouble spots (clubs and pubs) weren't too busy, and were well looked after.

2. The criminals just didn't think the cops were really serious.

Of course, Dublin, while still having its problems, is a lot less violent than many cities. Imagine if the cops in London had gone on strike for 24 hours - or New York, or Los Angeles, or Paris, or Berlin - there'd have been absolute fucking anarchy. Shaky helicopter footage showing streets on fire, bodies in the street, civilisation would collapse overnight. Just think about for a minute - wouldn't you be tempted, even you, you law abiding, decent citizen you, to go and heave a brick through a window, and bundle a widescreen TV into your car? Pick up a nice DVD player, maybe a PlayStation 2, some games... who's gonna stop you? The cops?

Of course, I'm not advocating anarchy, riots, or looting - but would you? If you couldn't possibly get caught? Is that all that stops you from being a criminal? They say we are all only three meals away from murder - of course, some of us don't even need that much encouragement...

Term for an unofficial police strike where officers call in sick en masse to protest any number of possible issues - wages, administration, actual criminal persecution of corrupt cops, whatever. The collective use of sick days is sometimes necessary due to laws banning police strikes, although police unions may also use them to gain an advantage in any future bargaining. Unlike most strikes, blue flus are usually fairly short-term. They may not be as universal as most labor disputes, due to a lack of the traditional blue-collar prejudice against scabs and the existence of police with a sense of duty towards law enforcement. One can imagine that blue flus don't exactly endear the police to the general populace or the local government, and some police contracts ban them as well as striking.

While the term most accurately describes police strikes, it has also been applied to other public employees, such as firefighters and teachers (who also have the amusing term chalk flu). A similar act by other groups is better described as a sick-out.

For one example of a blue flu in action, see The Blue Flu.

The source of the term obviously comes from the stereotypical American blue police uniform and one of the most common reasons for missed employment - influenza.

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