The head of Ireland’s largest trade union movement has called on companies to use increasing profit margins to rectify “wage stagnation and wage cuts” among middle- and low-income earners.
Responding to comments from Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy tothe effect that increasing wages to match higher property and rental prices is not prudent, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) general secretary Patricia King indicated that profit redistribution will help to alleviate pressures imposed on workers by the property market.
"By and large, the economy has had wage stagnation, wage cuts, now we're into a scenario where corporate profits are increasing significantly, people at the very, very top are taking advantage of that and we need to understand the pressures that are on workers' wages," she told RTÉ Radio.
She said Central Statistics Office figures showed a multi-billion euro increase in the corporate sector's gross operating surplus between 2014 and 2015, and said the salaries of Ireland's top earners have disproportionately increased since 2010 while many low- and middle -ncome earners contended with wage cuts.
She sounded a further note of warning in relation to potential increases in rents and described the current market as a “landlord paradise”.
“If you take wages in the round, you now have a situation where workers’ household income levels have dropped considerably, but you also have a situation where there are rising pressures on wages and one of them is in relation to housing.
“Actually we have a landlord paradise at the moment because landlords are increasing rents for tenants, in a lot of cases to avoid the two year caps - they know if they increase it now they won’t be able to increase it for another two years,” she added.
Addressing a conference earlier on Thursday, Mr McCoy said the State needs to avoid any return to a bubble economy and spiralling pay claims. He cited a report issued by the National Competitiveness Council on Thursday that identified Ireland as a high-cost location in which to do business.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Liam Doran meanwhile told RTÉ that the price of accommodation must be included in future pay negotiations, and that nurses can no longer afford to put down deposits for even the cheapest houses in Dublin.
New Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Mick Barry accused Ibec of being "intent on keeping wages down and maximising profits", and called on workers to demand a greater share of corporate profits.