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Union piles on pressure for wage hikes

Monday, February 03 10:12:03

SIPTU General President Jack O'Connor has said his union is engaged in a major push for pay increases across the private sector to recover ground temporarily lost during the crisis years.

Speaking at the annual Jim Larkin commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, yesterday he added that there was "a compelling case for alleviating the tax burden on lower to middle income families" through measures such as refundable child tax credits or lower Universal Social Charges.

However he said there was no justification for the tax cuts some employers' groups are demanding for high income groups.

"We must apply ourselves as Larkin did in his day to the immediate task of recovering ground which has been temporarily lost over the crisis years as well as defending occupational pension schemes," he said.

"That is why we are engaged in a major push to win pay increases across the private sector. We know that there is space to do it without endangering job creation, because unit labour costs have fallen significantly vis a vis our major trading partners due to wage stagnation and increased productivity over the last five years. Indeed far from damaging job prospects the best way to stimulate domestic demand which accounts for three quarters of the economy is by growing consumption. And the best way to do this is by increasing pay and purchasing power and we are precisely focussed on assisting workers to organise themselves to this end."

He went on to say, "We utterly reject calls by some among the business and employer organisations for further cuts in public spending to fund tax reductions for those on higher incomes. They never specify as to whether these additional cuts should be inflicted on the struggling public health service, or on what remains of a housing programme, or on the education sector, or on such provision as exists for care of the elderly, or otherwise. As far as they are concerned democratically elected politicians are there to take the blame for these choices. Having escaped contributing anything remotely approaching their capacity to do so during the dark years of one sided austerity they now want to get back to business as usual. All they know is that they want more - much, much, more and they don't give a damn who suffers the consequences."