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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  • Comment number 298.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Polly8122 @236.Dave

    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.

    Challenging your employer might it's more likely to lead to the sack as the Tories don't believe in employees' rights in the workplace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    I absolutely support the right of fuel tanker drivers - and all others in employment - to withdraw their labour if they are dissatisfied with the terms and conditions of their employment. However, rather than striking they should be required to exercise this right through the simpler mechanism of a letter of resignation. If you don't like the job, get another one - don't punish others!

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    It never ceases to amaze me how when a Union takes action which is prob 1% of what it does for members,how people not in unions or ineffective ones attack them!
    We live in an age where you cant just change jobs,or get accrued benefits over decades elsewhere,if these employees dont fight for their pay and conditions they will disappear!
    Has any employer ever reinstated during the good times etc,NO!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    268.Polly8122 replied " Then those in equally dangerous jobs could have a case for more."

    There *could* be such a case, so...let's all have massive pay inflation and bankrupt ourselves as did the Greeks! We can't afford army/police 50% more pay, and cancer research scientists can't hold us all to ransom by withdrawing labour. Union rights, yes. But coupled with a sense of perspective, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Here we go again, unions acting like we were back in the 1960's! If it's not Unite, it's the RMT. What is really at stake here is the livelihood of 1,000s of workers (some I might add in Unite) because of the Left Wing asperations of Union Leaders who have no interest in this country! If this really is a H&S issue - why have the Union not gone to the HSE with their concerns?

  • Comment number 292.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    These selfish mindless idiots are prepared once again to hold the this country to ransom on the slightest pretext.
    Conscript these morons into the Army so they would be subject to military discipline face court martial if they strike. Instead peoples lives will be ruined and businesses destroyed by this insane action. No one group of 2000 people has the right to threaten us like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    If any HYS contributor wants to ascertain just how much tanker drivers earn, without all this spin about 45k, all they have to do is google tanker driver vacancies.

    It really is that simple, folks.

    Would it be so unreasonable for the BBC to have actually done their research properly, instead of just quoting this 45k figure that is bound to get some HYS fans excited enough to have a heart attack?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    As a member of the Armed Forces, it is disgusting that we are forced to cover & lose holiday periods. Come let them work in Afghan, in the 'bare' operational bases that we 'enjoy' & see if the working conditions and pay are significantly better? I accept that you chose your job, but understand the conditions/pay of the forces replacing you & think you'll understand why the British Public hate you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Demand for road transport fuels equates to 56 million litres of petrol and 68 million litre of diesel per day.

    The government makes over 80p tax per litre.

    At nearly £100 million in tax per day, do you really think they are worrying about the effect on the general public?

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.


    Name calling, whilst effective when you were at primary school, is less so on a forum for adults.

    Read your post again, then sit in a corner, and think about what you have done.

    Or pull your tongue out at the computer screen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.


    Challenge & find another job by the way, more money, tut , tut, sorry but thats competition that makes our goods cheaper.

    Unless you work for Govrnment, thats guarnteed to go up.

    (Twenty loafs should do it) Panic !

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    I work for myself and I need my vehicle to do this, no fuel means no money earned, which means no mortgage, food or bills paid, tanker drivers have not thought of me or my family! Or countless millions in the same position as me, I am sorry but we have over 2.5 million looking for work, if they don't want the job there are plenty I am sure that would take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    What? 45000 gross- are you a petrolium tank driver ? The basic salary is nearing 30000 gross , and only overtime and working unsociable hours could achieve that once in a blue moon, my husband earned 44000 gross two years and that included -no holidays , six working days and only one day off , getting up at 3 in the moning coming back 3 in the afternoon or later (as late as 5 pm)etc, etc, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    All tanker drivers go on safety courses on a regular basis. Their wages far exceed the general drivers pay. A friend used to be a tanker driver. He retired at 55 and lives in Spain after having a house built there, also one here rented out. They are just being greedy knowing we all need the product they are paid to deliver, Conditions of work are in their contracts Perhaps they should reread them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    23. cantonboycardiff

    . . . if it is about 'elf and safety then they should refer their concerns to the Health and Safety Executive . . . unless of course its a smoke screen by the unions to exclude independents from their cosy little deal with the the majors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    You won't impact me Mr Tanker driver. I'm gonna go and get me an electric Nissan Leaf. Sorry if that does you out of a job in the future, but you left me no option! Didn't some bloke called Arthur somebody make us find alternatives to coal in the 70's?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I think anyone who is a driver should come out on strike against the government and unscrupulous Service Station owners for the cost of fuel. A SS owner by us has two stations yet one puts diesel at £1.51 a litre yet his other garage is £1.45 litre....how can he get away with it and why should we suffer for it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Rather unsurprising that the Government are trying to make as much fuss about this as possible, given the two scandals at their door - the donor row, and the RBS sale to Abu Dhabi.


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