Fuel tanker strike ballot result due shortly

The result of an industrial action ballot which could see fuel tanker drivers go on strike over terms and conditions and safety standards is expected imminently.

The first national campaign of action in over a decade could take place if approximately 2,000 members of Unite across seven companies vote yes. Drivers who are members of the trade union supply fuel to 90 per cent of the country’s forecourts and Unite said action could close up to 7,900 petrol stations.

Workers at BP, DHL, Hoyer, J.W Suckling, Norbert Dentressangle, Turners and Wincanton have been balloted and a yes vote could be returned on Monday. Potential strike dates would probably not be named until after Unite meets with local union reps over the coming days.

Soldiers could stand in for the tanker drivers should the strikes go ahead, the government said.

Francis Maude, the cabinet office minister, said the government was “ready to act” if the strikes go ahead and it had “learnt the lessons” of the past.

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. 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. Although we are pushing for an agreement, we have learnt the lessons of the past and stand ready to act to minimise disruption to motorists, to industry and, in particular, to our emergency services, in the event of a strike.”

Labour’s shadow minister for the cabinet office Jon Trickett urged the government to “show that it understands the gravity of the current situation” because it was “essential” a strike is averted.

A Unite official said the UK fuel distribution industry was “unstable and fragmented” and said the dispute was not over pay.

The official said: “Contracts chop and change every three to five years, bringing with each change a fresh assault on working conditions.

“Drivers are passed between successful bidders like the commodity they move around, with their terms and conditions suffering. Some workers report having six different pension providers in 10 years as a result.”

Unite said jobs were being cut while final salary pension schemes were increasingly being replaced by an inferior money purchase scheme.

Tanker drivers are in charge of 44-tone vehicles holding between 36,000 and 40,000 litres of petroleum product during their 12-hour shifts.

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