COMMUTERS face travel misery today and tomorrow after last-ditch talks aimed at diverting strike action broke down.
Drivers at Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann suspended services at midnight last night and the action will continue until Sunday morning plunging the nation into commuter chaos.
Unions have also refused to rule out more strike action after seven days of planned stoppages this month are completed.
Public transport users were yesterday hoping for a resolution to the dispute between union bosses and management at the firms.
The bus companies and unions representing staff have been at loggerheads since an announcement was made that 10pc of routes will be tendered to private providers.
But discussions between Siptu, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) and the bus operators stalled in the 11th hour at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
Unions representing staff said that there was “nothing new” from employers.
Both Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus last night confirmed they are to issue legal letters to both trade unions to recoup the costs of the strike action.
A Dublin Bus representative said: “Management have been forced to take unprecedented action and will now pursue a legal challenge for financial loss, including the damage to our reputation and good standing.
“This dispute is illegal and is totally without justification.”
Dublin Bus chief executive Paddy Doherty said “substantial damage” was being done to the transport firms.
Martin Nolan, chief executive of Bus Eireann, confirmed that they would also be “seeking damages from the unions”.
Bus drivers are also planning a stoppage between May 15-16, and a three-day strike on May 29, 30 and 31. The unions and management were called before the LRC yesterday afternoon in a desperate attempt to settle the row. However, just before 5pm, both parties emerged without a resolution, NBRU boss Dermot O’Leary said that there was “nothing substantial” on offer.
“We heard nothing inside that room that would have encouraged us towards a direction that any negotiations would deliver a result and therefore preventing us from calling off the strike,” he said.
Mr O’Leary’s words were echoed by his Siptu counterpart Owen Reidy.
“There was nothing new from the employers,” Mr Reidy said. “It is unfortunate, but the employers didn’t take the opportunity to seize the initiative it seems, so it is going to go ahead.”
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said he was “extremely disappointed” that there was no resolution between the unions and management.
“I have repeatedly said that this action is unjustified and will cause considerable damage to an economy that is in recovery,” Minister Donohoe said.
“It will also have financial implications for the bus companies who are only just getting back on their feet and discommode the travelling public who are attempting to go about their daily business.”
The comments followed earlier calls from the Taoiseach where he said he hoped “common sense” would prevail.
“There is no need for this planned strike, no reason whatsoever that it should happen,” the Taoiseach said.
Drivers expressed concerns that they might be transferred to the private operators, a claim that has been strongly refuted by their employers.
Dublin Bus last night said that as many as 850,000 passengers will be affected by the two days of strike action.
Bus Eireann said it was bitterly disappointed at the decision by unions to proceed with strike action.
“This decision now seriously impacts the daily lives of our customers, the financial security of the business and the wider economy,” it said in a statement.
“It will result in the loss of an estimated 250,000 passenger journeys and €1.5m in revenue.
“The walkout by Siptu and the NBRU is completely unwarranted and disproportionate.”