LABOUR backbenchers have criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for threatening to legislate for further public sector pay cuts while talks with unions were ongoing.
The criticism is a sign of the ongoing tensions in the coalition over the Croke Park negotiations, which have to deliver a further €1bn in savings from the pay bill over the next three years.
Labour Dublin North TD Brendan Ryan said Mr Kenny's recent comments were "unnecessary" when negotiations had only just begun.
"It's not helpful for politicians at this stage to be second-guessing what will come out of it. Let the thing take its course," he said.
Labour TDs are complaining that there is a perception that the majority of public sector workers are overpaid and under-worked, even though 68pc of public servants earn less than €50,000.
They are predicting that strikes and protests by public sector workers would be more likely if there are further pay cuts.
Labour Dublin Mid-West TD Robert Dowds said: "There are some sectors of the community in the public and private sphere where it would be very hard to take further pay cuts," he said.
And Labour Clare TD Michael McNamara added that Mr Kenny's approach was different to the Labour party's approach.
The ongoing talks over an extension to the current Croke Park deal – which expires next year – have been dealt a blow by the decision of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors to pull out.
No firm deadline has been set for reaching agreement on controversial issues such as increasing working hours, and reducing overtime and salary increments for public sector workers.
But it is expected that a deal would have to be finalised before the summer, given that the Budget this year is likely to take place in October. Any deal would have to be balloted upon by individual unions for acceptance or rejection.