The concillation service Acas has offered to step in and hold talks between trade unions and oil firms in an attempt to cool tensions and essentially avoid a strike by tanker drivers that could disrupt supplies to the whole of Britain.
The ideology behind the strike was tied back to terms and conditions and safety, with an official statement from Unite reading:
“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 even shorter delivery deadlines.”
Unite also claim that pensions were inferior to those that have previously been offered – adding that some tanker drivers have even had to switch their pensions six times.
Rebuttals from tanker firms have been issued, and one of the companies caught up in the row – Hoyer – even went so far as to say that its safety standards were one of the highest in the petroleum distribution sector, and in a move that somewhat quelled public support for the drivers, said that, on average their drivers earn around £45,000 a year.
Nonetheless, the strike threat is being taken very seriously – so much so that the government is currently training army drivers to deliver fuel to petrol stations, having learned the lessons of how seriously a past fuel blockade in the year 2000 affected the country.
The invitation from Acas to hold talks has been welcomed by the Energy Secretary Ed Davey. A statement from a spokesman for the service said that it welcomed Mr Davey’s suggestion for both parties to reach some sort of “negotiated settlement.” However, it continued: “Of course, take-up of Acas concillation is voluntary and the parties themselves will determine whether they wish to respond positively to our invitation.”
The prospect of the industrial action – which could feasibly take place over the Easter weekend – has aggravated many members of the public already disillusioned with the fuel industry as petrol prices continue to soar while other services such as electricity prices remain fairly static. However, many others have been sympathetic to the tanker drivers concerns, citing the need for safety and stability while they go about their jobs.
Regardless of public perception however, the government will surely be crossing its fingers, toes and everything else that some sort of agreement is reached before strike action takes place.
Do you think tanker drivers should go on strike? How will the industrial action affect you? Tell us in the coments below.