General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions David Begg has said a national strike could take place on 30 March in protest at the Government's handling of the economic crisis.

However, Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil that while he recognises the rights of unions to protest, industrial strife would not solve any problems.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Begg said the ICTU's plan for the economy was to offer the Government an alternative three-year agreement, based on a ten-point plan published before last Saturday's rally in Dublin.

He added that this would be a means of sharing what he called the burden of adjustment.

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has said he believes that the Government should engage with the social partners in a bid to reach agreement on proposals to reduce public spending.

Mr Dempsey said no changes to the public service pension levy are proposed, adding that a certain sum of money needs to be recovered and that will not change regardless of any alterations made to the levy.

He said if the plan to introduce the levy on 1 March is delayed the amount of money that needs to be recovered this year will be increased.

Minister Dempsey said the levy is just one measure to help reduce public spending, which has been put in place by the Government.

He said he felt over the coming months there should be engagement with the social partners to see if a consensus on the way forward can be reached.

However, he said the difficult decisions that have been made have to stand.

He said the Government has no issue engaging with the social partners, but he said the luxury of time and the postponement of difficult decisions cannot be afforded.