UK faces chaos with five firms set to strike
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By Roger Brown
BRITAIN COULD still face fuel chaos this Easter even after Unite failed to convince all its tanker driver members to back strike action in a dispute with operators over terms and conditions, safety and training.
More than 61% of members at seven of the leading fuel distribution companies backed industrial action, with the majority of drivers at Turners (Soham), Norbert Dentressangle, Wincanton, BP and Hoyer voting in favour. However, DHL and Suckling Transport drivers voted against the motion.
Unite is demanding an industrywide bargaining forum to end what it sees as the insecurity of contract working for its members. It also wants to establish minimum standards on terms and conditions, as well as health and safety. Strike dates will not be set until meetings with local union representatives have taken place this week. The government has warned that soldiers could stand in for the tanker drivers so fuel continues to be delivered. The drivers involved, who earn on average £45,000 a year, supply fuel to 90% of UK forecourts and the strike could close 7,900 petrol stations.
BP says it has been working with Unite since 2010 to discuss the union’s proposal to form an industry-wide bargaining forum.
A spokesman says: “Despite the fact that joint working groups have been established, Unite has decided to go ahead with this vote on industrial action.” Hoyer believes that industrial action is being driven by a “small disaffected group of employees” and says it has been engaged in talks with Unite on health, safety and training matters.
A spokesman says: “Unite has ignored the numerous low cost operators whose pay, terms and conditions, safety and training standards fall way short of ours. In doing so, it risks shifting the market towards the lowest cost operators whose approach to safety is different to our own.” Suckling Transport MD Peter Larner says he is pleased his drivers voted against industrial action. “I believe this is a positive relection on our irm’s strong health and safety culture, and good pay and conditions.”