Trade union groups have defended their decision to walk out of talks on increasing the minimum wage - saying they can no longer allow themselves to be a "mudguard for the mistreatment of the lowest paid workers".
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) made the decision to withdraw from the Low Pay Commission - which recommends minimum wage increases to the Government - after other members disagreed that the minimum wage should be increased by 2% next year.
Business groups, meanwhile, say many businesses are still relying on the wage subsidy scheme - and that any pay increases would make it more difficult for firms to hire people.
Brendan Ogle, senior officer with UNITE and member of the ICTU executive, said other parties were only prepared to recommend an increase of 1% to the minimum wage - amount to 10 cent per hour.
He told The Hard Shoulder: "In the context of what we're all going through and the labour market... the idea that the lowest paid, most vulnerable and precarious workers in the State would be the ones who would have to effectively pick up the tab.
"We were calling them heroes a few months ago - workers in the retail sector and across the hospitality sector. Those workers put in a tremendous effort to try to get our economy and country going again... put themselves at risk in many cases to do so.
"The ICTU can no longer allow itself to be a mudguard for the mistreatment of the lowest paid workers in the State."
Neil McDonnell - chief executive of the Irish SME Association (ISME) - argued that the minimum wage here is already the second highest in Europe.
He said: "To be suggesting an increase of more than 2% at a time when our unemployment rate is higher than it was at the last recession, when there's actual deflation and prices are going down... it's an anti-worker measure.
"It's actually going to make the low-skilled and unskilled worker more expensive to hire, at a time when businesses can't even afford to operate.
"For ICTU to throw a hissy fit and walk out in a petulant manner like this... is quite incredible."
He suggested that putting up the minimum wage would be the 'Pontius Pilate response' to Government's refusal to deal with rent prices, and it would be 'daft' to increase it now.
Mr Ogle rejected the criticism - saying unions have called for 'massive incentives' for businesses in response to the pandemic.
He said: "The massive employers, the corporates are getting are getting away with paying little or no tax. ISME's response to that is to kick down on workers, instead of kicking up for change and fairness.
"It's gone far enough now.
"It's very easy for people who are highly paid to tell people with practically nothing that 2% won't make a difference. 2% will make a lot of difference to people I represent in the hospitality sector... who've been out there working like hell."
He added that people are "entitled to be angry" and to say enough is enough.