Socialist Worker

Call the tanker strike

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2297

Petrol Tanker drivers in the Unite union are ready to strike in their fight for national minimum conditions.

But the union has ruled out calling any strikes until after Easter and gone into talks with haulage bosses.

The Tories were thrown into a tailspin last month when tanker drivers voted for strikes in five of Unite’s seven ballots in the industry.

The government announced plans to train troops to drive tankers and break the strikes.

Cabinet minister Francis Maude started a wave of panic-buying when he encouraged motorists to stock up on petrol with “a jerrycan in the garage”.

Many petrol stations were still having trouble getting fuel supplies for the Easter weekend as Socialist Worker went to press.

Brian Madderson of industry group RMI said the panic had hit supplies “more than anyone cares to admit”—and stocks may not be fully replenished even after the holiday.

A strike now could grind Britain to a halt.

However Unite has agreed to negotiations with the seven haulage companies this week at conciliation service Acas.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said, “We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through Acas.”

She added, “We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter should those talks break down.”

The Tory anti-union laws stipulate that Unite has until 16 April to give seven days’ notice of strikes.

But every day that Unite delays gives the Tories more time to train scabs and build up fuel stockpiles.

The union should call strikes sooner rather than later.

What do tanker drivers want?

For decades tanker driving has increasingly been outsourced from oil companies to competing haulage contractors.

The haulage firms have ruthlessly driven down their costs to compete for contracts—and working conditions have born the brunt.

Drivers are increasingly employed for as little as six months at a time.

Some workers now face a pay cut of up to £9,000. Many have been shunted between employers so often that they are now on their fifth or sixth pension scheme.

They have faced attacks on their pay and pensions.

And the amount of time given over to training has plummeted, putting drivers’ safety at risk.

Unite is calling for minimum standards across the industry to put an end to the race to the bottom.

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Article information

Tue 3 Apr 2012, 18:39 BST
Issue No. 2297
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