Prospect of strike action at Bus Éireann has increased as the company announced it is to press ahead with significant cost reduction measures without union agreement.

Throughout the lengthy dispute over efficiencies, unions have consistently warned that if management did so, it would trigger an all-out, indefinite strike.

In a letter to staff this evening, acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan accuses unions of refusing to accept any reduction of earnings - including unnecessary overtime - in previous negotiations at the WRC.

He says that in their latest clarifications, unions had "in a very general way", indicated a willingness to negotiate and accept a loss of overtime earnings.

However, he says that this only relates to "ad-hoc" overtime, which would only save less than €500,000 in a full year .He says that given the unions' position, there is no basis for talks reconvening.

He states: "We deferred critical cost measures while at the WRC, but these can no longer be deferred. Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option."

He says that following approval from the board today, they will now implement changes to work practices that will result in immediate cost savings.

He says the company's concern is underpinned by the need to have a cost structure which will enable it to tender successfully to retain existing or win new business - particularly when its existing Public Service Obligation direct award contract expires.

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The company will also proceed with closing the Dublin- Clonmel route on 2 April, as well as reducing services on Dublin Limerick and Dublin-Galway from that date.

The Athlone- Westport service will cease on 16 April, while the Dublin-Derry service will cease on 25 June.

46 measures are to be implemented immediately - but any efficiencies that result in a driver duty or rotation change will be implemented on 2 April.

Cuts include elimination of non-essential spend including non-payroll items, and stricter controls on bus hire and fuel efficiency.

All unplanned and unrostered overtime is "banned" and there are cuts in other allowances and premium payments - which would have implications for take home pay of many staff.

There will be no overtime payments for training or for attending meetings.

Bus Éireann is also seeking full implementation of existing collective agreements - which will supersede all local arrangements.

There will be tighter rules for annual leave, absence management and flexitime and efficiencies will be sought in other work practice areas.

Staff will not be allowed to work a rest day (with premium payments) for three weeks after taking a sick day.

Bus Éireann also indicates that it may subcontract services on a short or longer-term basis, and will use part time or temporary drivers, in order  to increase efficiency.

Staff will also be expected to co-operate with new technology.

Dermot O'Leary of the NBRU said all five trade unions at the company are meeting tomorrow at noon "to decide on a comprehensive reaction to the Bus Éireann letter."

The National Bus and Rail Union earlier queried how Bus Éireann has accumulated and calculated the losses that management says are pushing the company to the brink of insolvency.

The company says it lost €9.4m last year.

Yesterday, the company also revealed that losses in the first two months of this year were 41% higher than in the same period a year ago.

In today's letter to Bus Éireann's Acting CEO Ray Hernan, NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary says his office has been inundated with queries from driver members asking why, if the deficit is €9.4m, there is a requirement to seek €5m in overtime savings from their portion of the payroll.

He asks if the alleged €9.4m loss for 2016 is an actual operational loss, or an accounting loss made up of other variables.

He seeks details of the operational profit/loss for each Expressway region, as well as a breakdown of exactly how losses at Expressway have increased by 41% in a 12-month period.

Mr O'Leary also demands figures for revenue losses at Expressway for February 2016 and the corresponding figures for February 2017.

He asks why Bus Éireann is pursuing a savings target of €30m, of which €12m is to come from payroll.

He accuses the company of spurning an offer of "extensive time- bound discussion around efficiencies, from which short term savings could be found".

He also asks whether there is any superfluous spending outside of payroll that could be targeted instead.

Meanwhile the Minister for Transport has told the Dáil that he will not intervene in the dispute "to approve or disapprove" of the cost-cutting plan.

Shane Ross said it was not for him to intervene in a dispute between management and unions. 

"I wouldn't do anything which would stand in the way of that plan, or intervene in that plan.

"Its not up to me to take sides, its up to them to resolve the industrial relations problems" he added.