Negotiations on a new public service pay agreement have reached a point where securing a deal will be difficult, according to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe.
Speaking at the Irish Times Economic Summit in Dublin, Mr Donohoe described the process as very, very tough and challenging for both the Government and union sides.
He noted that in terms of pay rises, the unions and their negotiators have very different figures in mind.
He also said the Government had a clear agenda about productivity that would be required from government employees.
The minister noted that taking the value of public pensions into account was also going to be challenging for both management and unions.
He said government employees need certainty to know where they stand with their wages, both now and in the future.
He said that crucially, this would then give the Government the required order to plan both public service improvements and pay changes.
Mr Donohoe went on to say that order with public service pay, which accounts for over one-third of government expenditure, would then help to set the right tone for decisions across the economy.
He pledged that the Government would take a prudent, sustainable multi-annual approach to bring certainty to public sector workers, the taxpayer and the wider economy about what was affordable and fair.
Meanwhile, as the talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement entered their seventh day, the parties discussed restoration of overtime payments reduced during the economic crisis, rostering and family-friendly policies.
No detailed proposals on the key areas of pay and pensions have yet been tabled by the management side.
A number of unions have voiced frustration at the slow pace of the talks, which are now expected to miss their original completion target of this Friday.