Fuel strike drivers vote yes in row over conditions

A man using a petrol pump A fuel blockade in 2000 caused widespread disruption to the public

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Fuel tanker drivers have voted in favour of taking strike action in a row over terms and conditions and safety, the Unite union has said.

The government is holding a meeting with fuel delivery companies and supermarkets to plan tactics for coping with any resulting strike.

Army drivers are being trained to deliver fuel to petrol stations in case of a walkout by tanker drivers.

Unite said there had been "unrelenting attacks" on drivers' conditions.

In an interview with the BBC's Hardtalk programme, the general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, refused to rule out the possibility that any strike would be held over Easter.

About 2,000 drivers at seven distribution depots took part in the ballot in what was the first national industrial action campaign for more than 10 years.

'Beat the clock' culture

Unite said five of the seven depots backed strike action, while two did not. Of those five, the vote in favour was 69%. Turnouts across the five averaged 77.7%.

A statement from Unite said: "Tanker drivers work in an increasingly fragmented and pressurised industry, where corners are being cut on safety and training in a bid to squeeze profits and win contracts.

"Drivers face growing job insecurity as a result of the contract 'merry-go-round' and a 'beat the clock' culture has flourished, with drivers forced to meet ever shorter delivery deadlines. "

Diana Holland from the Unite union warns of "an industry that is in chaos"

It added that pensions were also inferior to those previously offered and some workers had switched pensions six times.

The CBI employers' group said that disruption on the roads was in nobody's interest.

"Drivers have voted for a strike, but each employer and Unite should now get back around the table to discuss the issues raised. Going ahead with strike action would have a real impact on people across the country," said John Cridland, CBI director general.


One of the companies involved, Hoyer, said its safety standards were very high.

A Hoyer spokesman said: "Hoyer has one of the highest health, safety and training standards in the petroleum distribution sector."

The firm said that pay and conditions for Hoyer drivers were among "the best in the industry", adding that the company's drivers earned on average £45,000 a year.

Hoyer said Unite had walked away from discussions designed to settle the dispute.

The UK has 7,900 petrol stations. Widespread protests against fuel prices in 2000 caused disruption across the UK.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government had "learnt the lessons" of the past and stood "ready to act" in case of a walkout.

Unite said the government should be putting pressure on oil companies.

Mr McCluskey said: "For over a year we've been desperately trying to bring about some stability in the sector and urging government ministers to persuade contractors and oil companies to engage in meaningful discussions with us."

Contingency plans

Ministers say the training of army drivers will begin next week as part of contingency plans being drawn up to avoid major disruption to fuel supplies.

Mr Maude said: "We are calling on the trade union Unite and the employers involved to work together to reach an agreement that will avert industrial action," he said.

"Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country.

"The general public should not and must not suffer from this dispute, and strike action is manifestly not the answer."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    For all of you condemning the unions, you are just falling for the Tory spin. The Tories don't give a toss about the country, they only care about their rich friends & their ability to exploit the rest of us. Unfortunately a lot of you have not woken up to the fact that the Tories are screwing you. They are past masters at lying & feathering their own beds at your expense. Wake up Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    good on them. stand up for your rights lads.power to the people!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    How much did Cameron pay to attend one of the Unite lunches? Just the ideal distraction he needs in the media right now,

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Oh well in 1980's the NUM tried to bring down a Tory govt so now we have Unite trying the same thing with tanker drivers. If the safety rules are being circumvented how come we have never had an accident????

    This strike is political given that the Unite leaders openly admit to being left wing. Kiss goodbye to any hope of economic recovery this year and welcome even higher unemployment.

  • Comment number 274.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Surely a party can mediate between the oil companies and the union before the need for industrial action?
    Such an industry needs very high health and safety standards and I support the drivers for seeking the highest standards.
    However I fear they will win few friends among the public if the strike goes ahead.
    Some motorists may argue this is the right battle fought against the wrong people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Nice weather for cycling...

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    257.deleted I hope all of you that think you are 'lucky to have a job' remember to doff your caps to your bosses tomorrow.

    yes, they are all sickening, such pathetic spineless toadying to the bosses. the rich just laugh at them doing their dirty work for them. vile. get off your knees and support working people against the revolting tories! go on, you can be better people if you do! strike!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Personally I dont want to drive a mobile bomb the size of an empty tanker, they earn good wages for the job, in this current climate of austerity the lads should be happy they have a job, and as for these comments of how easy it is, well i challenge any driver to do the job.
    Once again the Unions think they know better - sadly yet again they DO NOT

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    @15 I don't believe Unite are out to ruin the country. Anyway, the ConDem Government needs no help in doing that themselves ;) As for Len McCluskey I don't know him so can't comment.

    @16 The unions don't have to do anything to bring the country to it's knees. The Government and Big Business with their corrupt MPs and officials are already doing that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.


    Wish I could see a £1 so added on to my £6.10p/h but I am just glad to be in a job.

    Dave I'm sorry to hear you get such a low rate of pay. But gratitude won't get you more money, challenging your employer might.

    @251.Michael Kilpatrick

    Then those in equally dangerous jobs could have a case for more. Unless I've misunderstood your post. Apologies if so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Well if you read the story it is not about thier pay. It is the standards being undercut to get fuel delivered on a tight time scale. An example is that I started working at a petrol station recently and a tanker arrived to deliver fuel. The tanker was not "expected" so early and I was not trained to recieve fuel. His employers urged him to deliver the fuel anyway to keep up with his timetable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I think we should drop their wages to £10,000, let them deliver fuel on the back of milk floats (cheaper of course) increase their hours to 60+ of course they can safely drive their milk floats after driving upwards of 10 hours per day- just takes good old fashioned British ..........GULLIBILITY!

    So they earn upwards of 35K........and? Jealous? Campaign for better wages/conditions for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I believe if both sides go to ACAS the dispute can be resolved without the need to go on strike. I was involved in a strike a few years ago when we voted for a strike. After a few weeks of negotiations at ACAS where in return for the union agreeing not to strike, the management did not impose any changes to working conditions. In the end we did it without striking. It's not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    One only has to browse the comments here to realise how our democracy has been hijacked. Sure union militancy got out of control 40 years ago and was then disempowered by thatcher. But now the pendalum has swung the other way and militant capitalism is running rife. Only one thing is sure, a lot of posters here cant see the writing on the wall as we slowly drift into a new and darker age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Older contracts used to be up to 45k


    If you want to become a tanker driver now, you'll typically have to invest 3-4k for your training, and many companies are paying around £9 per hour (22k for 48 hour week). By law you cannot work more than 48 hours average, and your hours will wreck your marriage and social life.

    Even if you avoid death, you will die earlier.

    Plenty of vacancies today

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Where did that £45000 figure come from? Typical tanker driver pay is £32000. Again we are being duped and manipulated, by the right-wing press, to be envious rather than supportive. The press did the same job for the government when it came to teacher's, so-called gold plated, pensions. Come on people. Don't get fooled again.

    Concentrate on safety standards and work conditions please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    196. Darren Shepperd
    these people complaining about teh drivers going on strike should stop and think.
    Its not about money its about safety how will you feel if cost cutting by companies cost one of your nearest and dearest's lives?

    It's never about money, always about safety. So why have drivers been risking everyones live up until now? Oh they didn't need more money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Mass panic buying before Easter means that the strike will work, no matter how many squaddies drive tankers

    Anyone fancy going away for easter with a carload of kids and not a clue whether your next fuel stop will have any fuel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I was a petrol tanker driver for many years, safety is the number 1 not the pay, but a fair pay for the risk is required. The petrol companies should go back to employing there own drivers, this would stop the safety issues and pay problems dead. Ex Buncfield driver


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