Unions have accepted an invitation to talks from Iarnród Éireann in a bid to resolve the row over cost reductions.

However, SIPTU Assistant Organiser Paul Cullen said members were unhappy about the company's threat to unilaterally implement cuts if the intensive negotiations over the next week fail to secure a deal.

The National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O'Leary agreed that the insistence on preconditions was regrettable, adding that he did not believe the responsibility for securing the future of the company lay exclusively with staff.

He accused the company of asking employees to effectively buy a pig in a poke in the absence of assurances from the shareholder, the Minister for Transport, about the future of the business.

Mr O'Leary said it was not compatible to believe that current service levels could be maintained when the state subvention was reduced.

Iarnród Éireann had warned staff that if intensive negotiations fail to secure agreement on cost reductions, it will unilaterally implement the cuts set out in a recent Labour Court recommendation.

The recommendation has been rejected by SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union.

It includes temporary pay cuts for 28 months ranging from 1.7% to 6.1%.

SIPTU, which rejected the recommendation by 51% to 49%, has balloted to take industrial action if the company moved to unilaterally implement the cuts.

However, members refused to sanction strike action.

Other unions at the company, the TSSA, the TEEU and Unite, accepted the Labour Court recommendation, but the overall ballot result was 51% against, 49% in favour.

The NBRU, which voted no by 75%, has not yet balloted for industrial action.

In an email to staff, Iarnród Éireann Chief Executive David Franks said that after three ballots on cost reduction proposals, and having exhausted the industrial relations machinery of the State, they have nowhere left to turn.

He tells staff: "The responsibility for securing these savings now falls on ourselves: management and workforce collectively."

Mr Franks has invited unions to an intensive period of direct engagement for one week to address the outcome of the ballots, as the company strives to make what he calls the "critical" savings required from payroll as outlined by the Labour Court.

He says senior management are applying the cost reduction measures in the Labour Court recommendation, including the pay cuts, to their own terms and conditions with immediate effect.

Mr Franks says he believes there is willingness on all sides to constructively engage, and hopes this will allow them to progress and address together the other challenges facing the company.

However, he also issues a stark warning: "Should next week's engagement with trade unions fail to achieve progress, the company will then move to implement the Labour Court recommendation."

The Labour Court ruled that payroll savings were unavoidable if the future of Iarnród Éireann and the employment it maintains were to be protected.

However, it reduced the duration of the pay cut from three years to 28 months.