Minister for Transport Shane Ross has warned that the Government will not be a soft touch for either Dublin Bus management and unions as hopes of a last-minute resolution to avert a 48-hour strike look unlikely.

Mr Ross said the current dispute is between the management and the unions and it would be absolutely wrong for him to give any impression that the State would use its cheque book to sort out this problem.

Unions have argued that the State subvention for Dublin Bus has fallen by 24% over six years and that it needs to be increased.

Mr Ross has appealed to both sides to resume talks.

The dispute arose after Dublin Bus unions rejected a Labour Court recommendation of a general 8.25% pay award for all its 3,364 employees over three years (or 2.75% per year) without productivity changes.

Dublin Bus stopped its services at 9pm - three hours before the strike was due to begin.

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O'Leary has said that Minister Ross has a role to play in the dispute.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr O'Leary said: "He can't act Pontius Pilate and talk about him being a soft touch or his Government being a soft touch; not getting out cheque books, as if he had no role to play here.

"That's untrue and it won't wash with our members because it is essential that Dublin Bus is funded properly - there's been €27m in State funding stripped out for the last eight years."

Mr O'Leary said he does not want the minister to intervene directly, but "what I want Minister Ross to do is to allow Dublin Bus to have the ability to come back to the table. He says, we should be at it in the first place. There is no point in him using words that ring hallow to us within the industry."

He said it is a crying shame the minister does not act upon his own words.

Mr O’Leary said that he represents the demands of transport workers, workers who have gone eight years without a pay rise.

He said: "Something needs to give here. Me and the minister exchanging words across the airwaves - it won't resolve this dispute. But I would appeal to him, yet again, to put some meat on the bones of his words. 

"There's a way of solving this dispute around the table."

Earlier, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, SIPTU organiser John Murphy said: "I can’t see this being averted today.

"Our members made this decision nearly six weeks ago at this stage to reject the Labour Court recommendation.

"Within that six weeks we have had a one-hour meeting with the employer.

"At this stage the members are frustrated, angry, the members are looking at what is happening in the economy, passenger numbers are growing but their pay has stagnated."

Mr Murphy rejected suggestions that the dispute is about SIPTU and other union members wanting what Luas workers were awarded in their pay dispute settlement earlier this year.

Luas staff secured pay rises of 3.8% a year until 2020.

"I know the Luas is a headline figure but it is a different operation. It is simply a frustration over the last eight years in cuts that have been suffered by the employees."

Dublin Bus has said it is still willing to make the 8.25% pay increase recommended by the Labour Court and possibly more, but on certain terms.

Dublin Bus spokesperson Clíodhna Ní Fhátharta said any increase on the offer would be productivity related.

"That offer of 8.25% is still on the table. The trade unions unfortunately have taken to reject that offer," she said.

"We have said to them we simply don't have the financial means to pay anything above and beyond that.

"What we are willing to do is pay that and sit down and look at paying something above and over what the Labour Court recommended.

"But that must be based on productivity as we don’t have the financial means."

Mr Murphy, meanwhile, added there was no need for Dublin Bus to halt bus services early before the union's industrial action is due to begin.

The company wanted to ensure the fleet was returned to all depots before midnight for health and safety reasons.

"We have a fleet of over 1,000 buses and we have to ensure that each of those buses are returned safely and securely," said Ms Ní Fhátharta.

However, SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union have described the move as unnecessary.

As well as striking tomorrow and Friday, four further strike days are scheduled on 15, 16, 23 and 24 September.

Elsewhere, CEO of Dublin Town Richard Guiney has said the two-day bus strike will have a big impact on trade in the city and that 40% of people who come into Dublin city centre to spend money take the bus.

He said when a strike occurs the numbers drop significantly. 

"Roughly half will find alternative mode of transport and half won't come in. We expect trade to be down somewhere between 15% and 20%, so that will work out around €2.5m each day that wont go into the till, so that is an obvious concern for our members."

Director of the Small Firms Association Patricia Callan said they have tried to minimise disruption ahead of the strike and asked people "to talk to employees and to put a plan in place to implement flexibility with start times and facilitate those working from home or encourage those to carpool."

She said she believes there is going to be huge disruption with six-days of planned strike action this month.

"This is hugely detrimental and if you add up all the costs of those lates, those absences, people simply not getting their products and services out, it is more devastating than just the trade in the city centre being affected."

Yesterday, the National Transport Authority confirmed that Dublin Bus will face fines of €200,000 a day over the strike period.

Dublin Bus has estimated that apart from the fines, the strike will cost it around €600,000 a day, even after factoring in that it will not be paying staff.

Bus lanes will operate as normal

Gardaí have said bus lanes will operate as normal during the industrial action.

"Although Dublin Bus services will not be operating during this time, bus lanes will continue to be used by other public service vehicles, emergency service vehicles and cyclists."

In a statement, gardaí also urged the public to plan ahead as traffic is expected to be "extremely heavy on commuter routes, especially during morning and evening peaks."