The President of Ireland's largest public sector union, IMPACT, has openly accused Irish employers of "reaching new standards of double standards" by calling for wage restraint for workers, while top people's pay is soaring.
Finbarr O'Driscoll, who took over the leadership of IMPACT from Stephen Lyons earlier this year, called on business leaders "to show some glimmer of understanding of the rage and frustration felt by ordinary people", particularly when top earners award themselves huge pay increases, while telling the little people to tighten their belts.
Speaking at the opening of the union's biennial national delegate conference in Kilkenny, O'Driscoll said that unions needed to see evidence that employers still see partnership as a two-way street where all the parties make gains and sacrifices.
He claimed that in recent months they had witnessed what he called "emboldened employers, determined to row back on the rights, pensions and living standards of working people" and accused employers of "seeking to cut living standards with below-inflation pay rises, even as they awarded themselves big increases in their already huge salaries".
In the current national pay talks the unions needed increases that matched the rate of inflation, simply to maintain living standards.
"Most of the lectures on partnership and performance given to trade unions ahead of the national pay talks come from those who have done exceptionally well out of boardroom pay hikes or the report of the review body on top-level pay in the public sector", O'Driscoll said.
He accused profitable banks of increasing interest rates and leaving hardworking young couples to pay for the mess in the international money markets, which is of the banks' own making. He also slated retailers who hiked up prices for years on the basis of the high cost of the Pound Sterling, but who refused to reduce them when the value of that currency fell, as it currently does.
The powerful speech of the new IMPACT President shows that Ireland's largest public sector union (and second-largest union after SIPTU) is in good and strong hands and will not back down in the national pay negotiations.
The more than 55,000 members of IMPACT work in hundreds of public service occupations, grades and professions in health, local government and education, the civil service, and in many voluntary and community organisations.
The Emerald Islander