Business groups say 'it's too early for wage rises'
Business groups say it is "too early" for public sector pay increases and warned the discussions may be influenced by election pressures.
Patricia Callan, the director of the Small Firms Association (SFA), said there are "absolutely no grounds, across the board, for pay increases in any sector - public or private".
Speaking ahead of the talks which are due to kick off between the Government and public sector unions in Dublin today, Ms Callan said members have told them "we can never go back to a situation where there are pay increases for the sake of it".
"They should always be tied to productivity gains," Ms Callan said.
"In the context where that is the case, and where inflation is practically zero, there are absolutely no grounds for across-the-board pay increases in any sector - public or private.
"We would argue it is too early to be talking about public sector pay increases.
"They have no justification on the basis of inflation, on the basis of pay pressures in terms of private sector, and on the basis that the public sector employer is essentially still borrowing every month in order to keep the country afloat."
Employers lobby group ISME has called for the Government to postpone the public sector pay talks as they feel it would be "best for the economy" if such negotiations were held after the next general election.
ISME CEO Mark Fielding warned that "holding pay negotiations less than 10 months from an election is only going to favour one side, the trade unions, and should not be attempted".
"Any outcome will be seen as a return to auction politics," he said.
A new Government would not be hampered by the pressures of an impending election and be in a better position to negotiate an outcome more favourable to the economy at large," Mr Fielding added.
Trade union Unite, who kicked off their biennial conference in Dublin yesterday, are among the groups calling for the restoration of pay to pre-recession levels.
Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite - which has 100,000 members on the island - told the delegates he understands why they chose to disaffiliate with the Labour party, but urged that a "credible alternative is needed".