Private sector unions are to seek a 4% pay rise for their members in 2017, according to the chairperson of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions private sector committee.

John Douglas said that the claim would see full-time workers receive a minimum increase of €1,000 next year.

The decision was taken this morning after the private sector committee received an economic briefing from the Nevin Economic Research Institute.

Mr Douglas, who is also General Secretary of the retail and hospitality workers' union Mandate, said they would differentiate between employers who could not and would not pay.

Unions would engage reasonably with those who could genuinely not afford increases.

However employers who refused to pay were a different matter.

In recent months attention has focused on the pay demands of 300,000 public-sector employees who have been seeking accelerated restoration of austerity cuts to their pay and conditions.

Mr Douglas said that all relevant data showed that labour costs had fallen in recent years, productivity had risen and profits had increased, while wages remained flat. 

"People have seen their living standards either stagnate or fall over recent years as a result of austerity and rising costs," said Mr Douglas.

"The best way to address this deficit and to help grow the economy is through wage increases." 

Since the collapse of social partnership there has been no national structure to enable a centralised negotiation of private sector pay, with any recent pay hikes negotiated in individual companies.

Mandate, which represents 40,000 workers, said that after long discussions, and based on economic data and indicators, the union will be looking for a 4% increase in pay for 2017 with a minimum increase of €1,000 per full-time worker.

Ibec criticises union demands 

The employers' group Ibec has accused the unions of "crude opportunism" for announcing the 4% across the board pay claim for 2017.

Chief Executive Danny McCoy said attempts to hold the country to ransom by what he called "collusion between public and private sector unions" must be resisted. 

He said enterprise level pay bargaining has been and remains the most appropriate way to determine pay in the private sector, taking account of the competitive and productivity pressures on individual firms. 

Mr McCoy said the majority of private sector companies have been awarding pay increases over recent years. 

However, he stated that there was absolutely no justification for cost of living increases of 2% while the consumer price index remains below 2008 levels, with no emerging inflationary pressures in the economy.