The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has called for private sector pay rises of between 2.5 and 5.5 per cent to help workers to cope with the rising cost of living.
Ictu’s private sector unions committee met on Friday to discuss rising inflation.
Ictu general secretary Patricia King every pay negotiation would have to be cognisant of the employer’s ability to pay, some will be less than the 5.5 per cent, while many other companies were very profitable and could afford to pay wage increases.
Ms King said that the committee is also calling on the Government to relax the Small Benefits Exemption rules for employees in from €500 to €1,000.
The increase in the tax exemption level would “insulate” workers, she added.
“Our job is to ensure that the value of wages doesn’t fall.”
Ms King told RTÉ radio’s News at One that there would be no upper level for sectoral wage increases, but that there would have to be a minimum level.
She said public sector workers were not insulated against rises in inflation and that would have to be reflected in talks.
Asked by reporters on Friday about the union’s remarks , the Taoiseach said society had to be “careful that we don’t try and chase inflation and then end up causing more harm than good”. He said there “have been increases last year and coming into this year”.
He said at the last forum involving unions and employers “we did take the opportunity to discuss the inflationary cycle and how we would need to work together in terms of navigating this period and taking initiatives that would help workers but also make sure we do it in an intelligent way.”
Mr Martin said there would be “ further soundings between ourselves and the unions and the employers”.
He said the biggest pressure was on talent especially in hospitaltiy and this would “create its own upwards pressure on salaries and wages.”
Cost of living
It comes after the Government on Thursday announced a package of measures to address increases in the cost of living, doubling the energy rebate to €200, cutting public transport fares by 20 per cent and promising a once-off payment of €125 to recipients of the fuel allowance.
The package went further than expected, and also included changes to the drug payment scheme (reduced from €100 to €80), the working family payment and school transport fees but was criticised as insufficient by opposition parties and some groups working with the poorest households in the country.
Sinn Féin and the Labour Party said the package did not go far enough, while the Social Democrats accused the Government of “tinkering around the edges” of the cost-of-living problem. The Society of St Vincent de Paul said that the Government should have used the resources in a more targeted way to benefit those most in need of help.
Earlier on Friday Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe defended the measures introduced to address increases in the cost of living, particularly the universal energy rebate, saying it would bring support quickly to those who needed it most.
He said the Government had been determined to get the balance right: “These measures will help families. We are using this money to respond to the real challenges people are facing.”
Mr Donohoe acknowledged that there were some who had experienced wage growth, but the majority of the measures were geared towards those who needed the most help. “The style of the social welfare system is that it is geared to help those who need it most.”
On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath also defended the universal energy rebate. He said it would help those who fall outside social welfare thresholds.
The Government recognised that the measures would not meet everyone’s needs or would solve all the financial problems people were facing, he said.
Earlier on Morning Ireland, Dermot O’Leary of the National Rail and Bus Workers’ Union (NRBU) had expressed concern that the 20 per cent reduction in public transport fares would have an impact on wages of his members.
Mr McGrath said that the fare reduction was an important initiative and moved to reassure the NRBU that it would not be at the expense of workers but would come from additional funding.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan defended the universal energy support package saying that its main benefit was that it would go directly to those who needed it and would be done quickly.
“We wanted to do something fast that people would see immediately. This goes straight to the consumer, that’s why we picked this route.”