A new "social majority" must be mobilised against austerity policies which are being wielded as a political weapon in Northern Ireland and the Republic, the head of the country's largest trade union has said.
Maintaining workers' living standards and creating jobs are key to economic recovery, said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
Deprivation has become endemic on both sides of the border and it is time the majority mobilised in opposition to the cuts, he told a Belfast conference.
He said: "The political weapon of austerity must be countered with ideas, collective action and purpose.
"We must do this in innovative and co-operative ways, mobilising a new social majority - a majority that is informed by the values and principles of our movement."
Unite represents a range of workers from aerospace and shipbuilding employees to those working in the health sector.
Mr McCluskey, addressing an Irish policy conference, claimed austerity was driving joblessness and poverty in Northern Ireland and Irish Republic. He alleged it was used as a political weapon to make economies safe for private profit at the expense of workers' living standards.
He said: "Neither the Republic of Ireland nor Northern Ireland can afford another year of austerity - never mind years.
"The Republic is heading into an extended period of stagnation and austerity after an incredible five years of austerity, while Northern Ireland now has the highest unemployment rate in 15 years."
He added: "Unite has been campaigning throughout Ireland for an alternative - one that understands that workers' living standards are key to economic recovery; that creating jobs is the best way to reduce debt; that poverty is an economic and well as a social cost; and that public services are a stimulus and support to communities throughout the island."