Employers and unions lock horns over call for wage freeze
UNIONS and employers have locked horns over calls for workers' pay to be frozen for the next two years.
The spat came as Taoiseach Brian Cowen issued a call for businesses to play their part in helping the country through the recession by telling people to have faith in recovery.
Employers' group IBEC created a storm with the unions when it suggested that expectations of a pay rise for employees before 2013 were "unrealistic".
The country's largest trade union SIPTU reacted quickly by saying that this was "not the right way to go".
Its president Jack O'Connor said: "Persuading people to spend again is the key to jobs. A pay freeze across the economy would only serve to further depress consumption."
A meeting of the private sector committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) also rejected IBEC's call.
"Far from helping our economic recovery, it will undermine it further," said Eamon Devoy of the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union.
In a survey released yesterday, IBEC said the majority of firms would not be in a position to award pay increases either this year or in 2011. Previously, the employers' body had only ruled out pay increases up to the end of 2011.
The Taoiseach declined to be drawn on the issue yesterday and said every organisation had the right to put forward its point of view.
However, he did issue a call to the employers gathered at the 'Recovery Through Talent' conference at the Aviva Stadium to play their part in the economic recovery.
"It is important that business leaders do not underestimate the influence that you can bring to bear in your community and in your enterprise about instilling in everybody a realistic sense of faith in the fact that we are going to come through this problem," Mr Cowen said.
IBEC said the wage restraint was needed to restore competitiveness. However, SIPTU said the measure would be counterproductive as it would fuel fear and stop people spending.
This was echoed by the ICTU, which said that efforts should be focused on generating jobs.
The row escalated as new research indicated that seven out of every 10 job seekers are considering moving abroad due to the dire economic situation here. Grafton Recruitment said most of those thinking of emigrating were looking towards Europe, followed by Canada and Australia.