Fuel strike: Ministers stick to walkout plans

 

Nick Dennis, from Unite, says the government "has not been helpful" in the ongoing dispute

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The government says it is right to continue with contingency plans for a fuel strike, despite a deal being near.

The Unite union will meet next week to discuss the deal, which was tabled on Friday following six days of talks with officials from six distribution firms.

After the breakthrough at Acas talks, a government spokesman said contingency plans would continue.

But the union's Nick Dennis said that this was not helpful in trying to reach a negotiated settlement.

He added: "The government is not being helpful in the way they've handled this situation."

After the Friday talks led to a possible deal, a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: "We welcome the news that Unite plan to put a deal to their members.

"As we've said all along, we're taking sensible measures to plan for a possible strike and will continue to do so until a final agreement is reached."

Unite represents 2,062 tanker drivers, covering 90% of supplies to forecourts, and is calling for minimum standards of pay, hours, holiday and redundancy.

The dispute concerns safety, pay and working conditions but details of the proposed deal have not been disclosed.

Mr Dennis said the talks had been "positive and constructive" and his members would deliver a verdict on the deal by the end of the week.

Signs at petrol station Panic buying led to fuel shortages

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott described it as a "big step forward" but added that the big sticking point appeared to be pay.

He said it was unlikely the talks among union delegates would begin on Monday, because no venue had yet been chosen to host the discussions.

About 60 union representatives from across the country will discuss the deal and have until Friday to accept the proposals or announce a strike.

The threat of a strike had resulted in panic buying at petrol stations, after the government advised motorists to top up their tanks.

Labour's deputy leader and shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, welcomed the prospect of a settlement but blamed ministers for the fuel panic.

"Nobody wants to see a dispute. But I think if, as we hope, the dispute will be settled, everybody will say all the inconvenience and worry that people were put through and the prices going up at the pumps during the fuel panic - that was all caused by the government.

"I think really they've got to recognise that people are finding things difficult at the moment and actually it's not the job of the government to make things worse."

 

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  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 212.

    This Government has totally mismanaged this situation...the level of incompetence beggars belief. Any contingency planning should be going on at all times in the background so that last minute panics like this are not necessary.
    Can't believe Mr Maude is still in his post!

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 171.

    This govt have already made a dogs dinner of this the best thing they can do is say nothing.It should be noted by the way that the unions have said even if they did strike that fuel for the emergency services etc would be maintained.

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 163.

    The two sides have been negotiating and coming close to a deal. What does the Government do make publicly stirring things up and making it more difficult. Every government has a duty to make contingency plans, the Government could have done this behind the scenes so that should the strike go ahead then they are ready. In the meantime the Government seem intent on stirring up panic.

  • rate this
    +82

    Comment number 95.

    Couldn't the Government have quietly and sensibly continued with their contingency plans without making a song and dance of it? Anyone with a bit of common sense can see that this isn't over yet, and it needs cool heads and a low Government profile to bring about a solution, not headline-hunting. Did they learn nothing from the dangerous fools they made of themselves a couple of weeks ago?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 88.

    Having contingency plans is the right thing to do, meaning having something to fall back on. There's nothing wrong with having back up plans.

    One or two here will kick and scream should there be a strike with NO back up plans. Some say Unions are holding the country to ransom, these people have them work for nothing without proper safety procedure, what would they offer, let them do the job?

 

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