The closure of the first Bus Éireann route to face the chop under a €30m cost-cutting plan still hangs in the balance as talks to avert an all-out strike kick off.
Unions demanded that the company withdraw its plan to close the X7 from Clonmel to Dublin - which will lead to job losses - at discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.
But the company said all current plans are only suspended for the duration of talks, so it depends on how these progress.
A document seen by the Irish Independent said the last scheduled service on the X7 will be the 6.35pm from Clonmel on Saturday.
Five drivers on temporary contracts on the route have been told they will lose their jobs, and another nine have been told they must move to Waterford or other depots.
A further four Waterford-based drivers would go into a spare drivers' pool, according to a letter from Waterford services manager John Sheridan to unions.
Another letter from Bus Éireann Southwest services manager Blathin McElligott said that the withdrawal of services on route X12, between Dublin and Limerick, also planned for March 12, has been "set aside" during talks.
The general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union Dermot O'Leary, who has been running a 'Save Our Bus Service' campaign, said it would demand a reversal of the route cuts.
"The least we can expect is for a stay on the execution of the closure of any of these routes," he said.
Other routes earmarked for closure are the 21 between Athlone and Westport on April 16 and the 33 from Dublin to Derry on May 28. In addition, Dublin to Galway's 20 and X20 will be reduced from next Sunday.
Talks began yesterday in a new attempt to halt an all-out strike.
The company had threatened to impose 55 changes to work practices from yesterday, which would have triggered an all-out strike. It threatened that further cuts were in the pipeline.
Confidential documents revealed the company said it was willing to negotiate a pay rise, while a settlement would cover all items "and there will not be a need for any additional plans", as had been suggested.
It committed that funds for a voluntary redundancy scheme would be made available if a plan to address insolvency was agreed.
The Irish Independent previously revealed it planned to shed 120 jobs among categories other than drivers. They were 60 managerial, executive and clerical roles, 40 engineering and maintenance jobs and 20 inspectors' positions. The company said unions must co-operate with improved efficiency but did not specify whether older plans to impose cuts, including reductions in premium pay and allowances, had been dropped.
Meanwhile, Siptu said it is pushing the safeguarding of full-time jobs, protection of routes and bus garages, and a hike in funding for the free travel scheme to the fore at talks. Unions are also pushing for a Sectoral Employment Order, which would set minimum pay rates and conditions.
As the country faces the possibility of the worst public transport dispute in many years, we have to seriously ask, what has gone wrong? The narrative of the industrial relations blame game goes something like this.