Business group Ibec has said that it will not take part in discussions on Thursday over the worsening Tesco dispute.

Earlier, the Labour Court invited Ibec and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to a meeting to discuss the dispute.

Around 1,500 Tesco employees are currently on strike, with a further 500 due to join the dispute next week, in a row over company plans to move around 250 pre-1996 recruits to less favorable contracts.

In a statement, Ibec said that it was made aware that the invitation by the Labour Court was "being cited in some parts of the Tesco business to encourage a vote for strike action in ballots".

Ibec Director Maeve McElwee said: "In these circumstances, the proposed talks tomorrow are not helpful to the current situation and Ibec cannot therefore take part at this time."

The Labour Court had issued a recommendation aimed at resolving the dispute, which was accepted by management but rejected by members of the Mandate trade union.

Industrial observers are concerned that there appears to be no sign of a settlement, and that the impact of the dispute will worsen.

Meanwhile, Tesco has said that five more stores have voted against taking part in the industrial action. In total, 18 out of 24 stores balloted so far this week have rejected Mandate's call for pickets.

Mandate has said that following the latest ballots, over 2,000 Tesco workers in 22 stores will be on strike from next week, with Tesco workers in Sligo Town being the latest to join the action.