National agreement only way forward -- SIPTU chief
A senior union leader has said a new national agreement is "the only way forward" but it is "too premature" to talk about pay rises.
SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor also dismissed Glen Dimplex chief executive Sean O'Driscoll's call for a five-year pay freeze.
But the main employer group, IBEC, backed Mr O'Driscoll's call for a long pay pause, although it said some employers might award wage hikes next year in return for increased productivity.
Mr O'Connor insisted a pay freeze would not sort out the country's economic woes, but would not be drawn on whether he would seek wage rises if the social partners returned to talks.
He indicated unions may be open to negotiations on a new national agreement, although he highlighted non-pay issues including measures to protect householders in danger of repossession.
The time may be ripe for a new social partnership deal as the last one was abandoned by the Government and IBEC not long after it was brokered in 2008.
However, public servants have already done a national deal on pay by signing up to the Croke Park deal that means a wage freeze until 2014.
With widespread wage restraint during the recession, and inflation showing a slight rise, unions may argue for pay increases in the private sector.
The Irish Independent recently revealed that IBEC believed 22pc of bosses would boost their employees' wages next year -- although the majority plan to freeze pay.
"A national agreement is the only way forward for this country," said Mr O'Connor.
He added that it would not be easy to make an agreement as union attempts to get the Government to shore up employment and protect family homes from repossession were ignored.