Fewer than one in 10 Irish employers have cut staff wages in the past six months, according to a new survey by international consultants

Despite recent high-profile disputes in RTé where management has cut salaries by up to 12.5% and the ongoing electricians' dispute where employers had originally sought a 10% wage cut, the Mercer survey shows that only a small minority of employers (9%) are taking this option in response to the deepening recession.

But just under half of the companies surveyed were freezing pay at 2008 levels while 25% were deferring any pay increases due this year until 2010 or until such time as there are real signs of a
global recovery.

Mercer's findings correspond with Taoiseach Brian Cowen's latest offer to the unions to effectively suspend last September's national pay agreement, which provides for 6% in two phases over 21 months, until January 2011.

Several employers have reached their own agreement with staff. The latest high-profile case involves department store Brown Thomas, where it was agreed to freeze a 3.5% increase due last January until the end of the year.

But Bank of Ireland's life-assurance arm is facing industrial action from its staff over its decision not to pay an increase due since March.

The Mercer survey shows that while most employers have shied away from pay cuts due to the legal complications involved, 29% of companies have reduced working hours with a consequential reduction in earnings.

Three quarters of the companies said that they had paid a reduced bonus in 2009 based on performances in 2008, though 9% admitted they had paid higher bonuses this year.