David Begg was obviously angered by the call for a wage freeze and said that ICTU would make no sacrifices to continue the Social Partnership model. He outlined increasing pressures facing the average worker - especially the low paid - including food and fuel increases, and hikes in interest rates. For those people, he explained, a pay pause was "a non-starter" which he was not even prepared to entertain.
He stated that - because of inflation - many workers had already endured a pay freeze, if not a pay cut, over the past two years and added that he would not advocate sacrifices on behalf of workers to maintain social partnership in its current form when others in society had "their snouts in the trough".
The Taoiseach has declined to comment directly on David Begg's comments. Speaking on his way into an IBEC dinner in Dublin, Brian Cowen said that Mr. Begg was expressing his own view.
In a separate statement the Impact trade union has described the proposal of a pay freeze across the public service as "an absurd proposition".
The union’s general secretary, Peter McLoone (left) said that the suggestion was neither sensible nor acceptable, as workers would not support a social partnership deal which made no provision for a pay increase.
Speaking on RTE Radio, he said there was a large number of public sector workers whose pay was well below the average industrial wage.
“It is an unrealistic proposition to ask people of those levels of earnings to go without any increase for the duration of an agreement,” he explained.
“Very little progress” had been made at the partnership talks which commenced two months ago. All sides had yet to fully engage on the most important issues.