Trade union leader Patricia King delivered a withering criticism of the government's housing plans telling Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that his policy had “failed”.
Speaking at an Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference today, the general secretary also demanded that workers' rights to bargain must be addressed as these powers had not advanced in more than 100 years.
Mr Varadkar used his speech to tell union leaders that he still wanted to reduce the higher rate of tax. He also expects the minimum wage will exceed €10 next year.
Ms King told the conference that there was a strong imbalance in workers' rights, particularly where sometimes they have to face up to “bare-knuckle capitalism”.
She highlighted how the right to collective bargaining was still not enshrined in law and workers were in the same position as when socialist James Larkin protested in 1913.
Union representatives were chased off building sites, she told delegates. The battle for decent work and pay was the “struggle of our time”, she added.
Contractors awarded significant state contracts were facilitating precarious work, including bogus employment contracts which avoid tax, said Ms King.
"A lot of those contractors come in. They are happy to take the company project, they are happy to take the company money and nobody asks them why are they misclassifying and Revenue facilitates it. It is pure wrong, it is denying the workers all of what they are due.”
The ICTU leader left her most critical comments for the government's housing policy.
We genuinely believe that your policy has failed and we genuinely believe that you need to urgently change it. We have a very strong and passionate view that the delivery of social and affordable housing is through the mechanism of the local housing authorities.
Mr Varadkar said local authority powers to construct homes would increase and could reach 11,000 units next year.
On tax, Mr Varadkar said he still wanted to reduce the higher rate for worker.
“Over the next five years, we can do better.”
Mr Varadkar also said he expected to receive recommendations next year to increase the minimum wage to more than €10.