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 558.


    Unite/Unison are not all the same. Your blinkered attitude, however, suggests to me that you should step away from this page. The BBC, irrespective of government bias, should not allow your brand of slapdash discrimination.

    When did Unite advocate violence as you previously asserted? Your age is irrelevant, as is the "PM's spokesman". I wouldn't trust the latter with an apple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Oh no. No petrol. Can't drive my car. No identity.

    Must panic buy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    547 Aikiguy
    Yes,and I can recommend some Italian transport!(joke)please!
    Unfortunately the minority control the media,new legislation,businesses,etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    @551 JamesStGeorge

    You haven't really thought that through have you?

    Say in a parallel fantasy world of yours they do get sacked, they'll be re-hired as contractors on less money. End result, same job - less pay. I'm presuming you want all the teachers/nurses etcetc sacked too after their strike?

    Do you know how the world actually works to any degree?

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    skillful leadership qualities?,what sort of leader would sit around the dining table in total disageement over the vast sum of taxfree money they may be being given all behind closed doors,seeking santuary in silence & attempting to tell the public there's nothing going on,not a very good leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    Workers have the absolute right to withdraw their labour in order to get their point across. Bringing in the Army is not something I would expect in a democratic country. These are the tactics I would expect in a dictatorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    Which is it?
    A skilled job that justifies £45k a year, or one that soldiers can be trained to do in a matter of weeks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Looks like there are 2000 job openings coming up. Sack them, plenty more unemployed will take the jobs at half the pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    538. Aikiguy
    I think that all the union knockers ought to read Marx and Engels. Those lads can tell you all you need to know about life. Mail readers - you'll need a dictionary close by.

    This is playground stuff.
    My Dad's bigger than yours.
    If there are knockers here, you are of the biggest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Perhaps striking tanker drivers should be given a 'Sorry your leaving us' card' with a nice little P45 inside to help them back into reality!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    536. oldunionist
    Sack them and employ more responsible drivers!

    Because anyone can be drafted in off the dole queue to drive large quantities of highly flammable liquids on crowded motorways in containers which, in the case of crashes will produce sparks. I take it you haven't read the basis of the drivers' complaint, have you?:

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    Would all those Tories and Mail readers knocking the unions please emigrate to the US. You'd like it there and they'd like you, It would be fab to be shut of you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    @541 paul

    The majority of the cost of fuel at the petrol pump is in fact taxation.

    Driving up the cost of living is the oldest trick in the book; its singular and oppressive function is to limit the ability of the population to focus their efforts against that oppression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    The days of the fuel tanker drivers are numbered - we will soon be driving all electric vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    It isn't about the pay remember people. This is about the never ending cost-cutting measures that, sadly, all large corporations seem to be making these days. I know... I work for one that seems to think you can keep doing more while they keep providing less. In the case of these drivers, remember what they're driving, this sort of behaviour by the companies is a danger to all of us to

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Some commentators on here should really take a good hard look at the Tory attitude to the working class because they may think their safe from the Tory wrath but if your not in the 1% your nobody and worthless and if you let them take away the last teeth the unions have after the working rights laws this lot are planning they will reap themselves what they now sow

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    Unite / Unison - I'm 60 : they're one and the same.
    Mr McCluskey said that, he was encouraging the public to engage in "all forms of civil disobedience" in the campaign against cuts during the Olympic games.
    The PM's official spokesman said the threat was "completely unacceptable and unpatriotic and I am shocked that Unite would sink so low as to spoil this great national event for everyone else"

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    I believe we should all protest about high petrol prices! We can't afford to drive to other parts of the country anymore so it's going to hurt all of us unless we are MP's who get a fuel allowance. It's now hurting the economy because it is too high! We have to buy it to get to work but why penalise the workers ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    Wow these drivers are getting £45k in earnings. I wish I could earn that Salary, I coud retire for sure. So can understand them going on strike, they want to hold on to everything they can earn and lets face it, they ain't gonna find another job paying that kind of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.


    I sincerely doubt that Unison will disrupt the Olympics. Unite might have a good go, though.

    Are you stating that Unite are advocating violence during the Olympics? That's a serious allegation. As for "healthy and democratic", you're clearly not equipped to judge on that.

    I hope they use the Olympics to show the world the Emperor's New Clothes of this country


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