The National Bus and Rail Union has told Bus Éireann that it is prepared to engage in talks aimed at resolving the current dispute over cost reductions - provided the company's previous correspondence setting out planned cuts is withdrawn.

Earlier, Bus Éireann Acting Chief Human Resource Officer Ken Bryan appealed to unions to engage in talks to avert strike action on 20 February if the company unilaterally implements cuts, which unions say could cut pay by up to 30%.

Responding this afternoon, NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary stressed that the NBRU has not set any preconditions on future discussions with any of the stakeholders involved in both creating and resolving the issues at the core of what he calls "this debacle".

However, he described previous correspondence from Acting CEO Ray Hernan, outlining proposed cost cuts which would reduce pay and conditions, as containing a barrier to initiating any discussions towards a potential resolution.

He said that Bus Éireann's financial crisis has been induced by flawed policies.

Mr O'Leary said that all sides in the dispute owe it to the customers, the taxpayers and to Bus Éireann's workforce to engage in extensive, broad ranging discussions in a bid to prevent the travel chaos that will inevitably ensue if they simply do nothing.

He said the NBRU will commit to such discussion if formally invited to do so, but Mr Hernan's previous "offending correspondence" outlining the proposed cuts must be withdrawn if talks are to proceed.

Bus Éireann has said that it will not be withdrawing the letters from Mr Hernan, which outlined the proposed cuts in pay and conditions.

It is understood that the 20 February date for unilateral implementation still stands unless unions come up with alternative proposals. 

Meanwhile, SIPTU has said that it will engage in talks with Bus Éireann management if the company "removes its threat to unilaterally implement changes to workers' terms and conditions of employment" on 20 February. 

SIPTU Sector Organiser Willie Noone said: "In order to facilitate the earliest possible engagement, the company must as a matter of urgency rescind the contents of its letters of 18th and 27th January, which indicate that our members' pay and conditions will be arbitrarily changed on 20th February."