Strike action by Luas drivers planned for next Tuesday has been cancelled after Luas operator Transdev and the union representing drivers accepted an invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission to attend talks on Monday.

Transdev said it welcomed the opportunity. In a statement, it said: "Transdev anticipate these talks will be difficult and long, given the scale of the pay claim before the company and the expectations that have been created. 

"Transdev, however, believe the WRC will create the framework for positive discussions and look forward to a resolution in the weeks to come."

Owen Reidy of SIPTU earlier said the union would be happy to accept the invitation as long as it gets confirmation in writing that the company would also attend.

Luas drivers went on strike for four days last month. A further two days of stoppages were scheduled for next Tuesday and 17 March. The drivers yesterday escalated their industrial action by serving notice of strike action on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

The dispute centres on a pay claim by SIPTU for increases of up to 53% which Transdev said is unsustainable and unaffordable.

Kieran Mulvey of the WRC said it had contacted both sides on the basis of SIPTU's offer to put off strike action on 8 March and on receiving assurances that no unofficial action is taking place at the company.

Yesterday, SIPTU sources said drivers had been prepared to suspend next week's strike action in order to facilitate talks at the WRC.

Mr Mulvey said this afternoon that the union and the company are better off at the WRC as they will not make progress by megaphone argument.

He added, however, that it is going to be a very difficult dispute to resolve because the parties are very far apart. 

He said the WRC will help the parties to reach a conclusion if both sides are creative, constructive and imaginative, but it can only do this work "if both parties are fixed on a solution rather than fixed upon a war".

Mr Mulvey said the WRC also has to be concerned about other public transport considerations in dealing with the dispute. 

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has welcomed the renewed efforts to seek a resolution to the dispute.

"The Luas is a key piece of Dublin transport infrastructure upon which tens of thousands of people rely. Strike action in recent weeks seriously inconvenienced commuters and cost local businesses and the company dearly.

"The recent escalation of the dispute, which would see the service out of operation on important public holidays, will have a significant negative impact on our tourist industry and on the Dublin economy at what is a crucial time for our city.

"I welcome the decision to cancel the 24 hour stoppage planned for 8 March and the agreement reached by management and the union to enter talks next week. I sincerely hope that this signals an intention to resolve the matter so that regular services, without interruption, can be resumed."