CASH in over 200 ATM machines along the east coast will run out over the busy bank holiday weekend because security van drivers refused to follow a company instruction to drive away and abandon their colleagues in the event of a robbery.

The row only affects non branch ATMs belonging to AIB, Bank of Ireland and the Ulster Bank along the east coast of the country. Machines in the south and west of the country, which include the most popular bank-holiday destinations, will be kept topped up over one of the busiest weekends of the year.

All the cash outlets belonging to the NIB, which was the subject of a damning High Court report on fraud and overcharging this weekend, are unaffected by the row.

Brinks Allied, which keeps the ATMs topped up with cash, said that people can use ATMs at bank branches and the increasing number of machines in shops. But it advised customers to avail of the cash back facility on Laser card purchases because of a likely run on working ATMs.

A spokesman for Brinks yesterday said that every effort was being made to resolve the dispute but said that formal talks at the Labour Relations Commission could not get underway until the bank holiday weekend was over.

The row erupted when the company tried to introduce new security vans which, Siptu said, were designed for ATMs on the continent but not in Ireland. The union said that it became very concerned when the company told its security staff that in the event of a robbery or any threatening incident, the drivers should leave the scene immediately with the van and abandon their colleague.

The company would not comment on the union's claim, saying only that the row was over several issues.

Last week, SIPTU said that it would work with the new vans but only if it got a signed letter from the company that van drivers would not be disciplined if they stayed to help their colleague during an incident. When this letter of assurance was not forthcoming, the workers decided not to take out the trucks on health and safety grounds.