The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has described the €815 million spent by the State each year  to assist the long-term unemployed as "corporate welfare" and a subsidy to employers paying inadequate wages.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, ICTU General Secretary Patricia King said that if people securing jobs were able to earn a decent wage, and if their jobs were not so precarious, social transfers from the State would not have to be so high.

She called on employers to operate "corporate responsibility" in this regard and pay decent wages.

Last year, thee state spent €815m on employment supports 86,870 unemployed people.  

Of those, 21,500 were assisted in Community Employment Schemes, 8,370 received the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, while the remaining 57,000 received working age employment supports. 

Asked about the fact that employers would say they could not afford to pay higher wages, Ms King responded that they always say that.

However, she said that if you looked at the profits of a lot of companies, the two narratives did not add up.

She described the hotel and hospitality industry as the "worst offenders" in relation to low pay, noting that three quarters of workers in that sector earn €400 per week or less, according to CSO figures. 

Asked why the Low Pay Commission, of which she is a member, did not advocate more strongly for higher floors for pay, she noted that the Commission is made up of unions, employers and academics who engaged in very "vibrant" discussion on a regular basis on where to set the National Minimum Wage.

Ms King also called for legislation on setting legally binding  pay rates in lower paid sectors should be amended as it is not working in its current form.

She said the fact that employers could simply refuse to engage with the process and effectively stall it, meant the legislation was ineffectual in allowing legally binding agreements on adequate pay pension and sick pay for workers to be bound.

She called on the Government to amend the legislation to allow the Labour Court to set pay rates if employers refused to engage.