Planned industrial action by SIPTU school bus drivers in Co Galway has been deferred until next Friday, 1 March, pending further talks with management.

The union had threatened to withdraw the services of 37 drivers tomorrow as a result of a long-running dispute with management over pay and conditions.

The action would have affected close to 100 routes.

The dispute dates back to 2011 and centres on changes to some of the school bus routes in the county.

Last February, the Labour Court ruled that Bus Éireann was entitled to change the drivers' schedules.

A subsequent report from an independent assessor was accepted by both sides and resulted in ex gratia payments being made to the drivers.

Bus Éireann said it has followed all industrial relations mechanisms to date.

It is confident that services could be provided on all primary and post primary routes should strike action take place.

A further meeting between the company and union representatives is due to be held next week.

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann Chief Executive Martin Nolan has appealed to workers to accept a Labour Court recommendation on a recovery programme for the company, or it will have to consider cuts in basic pay or job losses.

In a letter to staff Mr Nolan said any delay in accepting the proposals would place the company in "further jeapardy".

He admitted that writing to staff while a ballot was underway was a highly unusual step but he said it underlined the very real and serious situation facing the company.

Mr Nolan said "unlike the wider public service, there is no safety net for Bus Éireann, if we do not reduce our cost base, job losses may be unavoidable".

Bus Éireann is seeking a €9m cut in payroll costs due to rising fuel costs, falling passenger numbers and a cut in its Government subvention.

Staff face cuts in overtime, shift payments and expenses under a Labour Court recommendation.

In addition, clerical and executive staff will have to increase their working week from 36 hours to 39.

Mr Nolan also urged workers to avoid industrial action.

He said: "Any industrial unrest that may potentially arise would only exacerbate the situation and, unlike those directly employed in the public and civil service that would have jobs to return to after any industrial action, we may not."