Socialist Worker

Tanker drivers could call strikes as deadline looms over talks

Issue No. 2300

Unite union negotiators were in talks with six major haulage companies over the ongoing tanker drivers’ dispute as Socialist Worker went to press.

They had gone back to the Acas conciliation service on Monday of this week, following an overwhelming vote by around 60 reps last week to reject the bosses’ first offer.

Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of Unite, said, “While some progress has been made, the overwhelming feeling is that these proposals do not go far enough.”

She added, “For too long, operators have presided over the erosion of standards. That is not sustainable.”

Over 1,200 drivers across five companies could strike, after they voted for action last month.

The drivers want a national agreement on minimum standards in the industry to prevent a “race to the bottom” between contractors.

Unite wants to make sure pay will not be cut below a certain level. It also wants similar guarantees on training, safety, pensions, conditions and job stability after years of attacks.

But the drivers have the power to win much more than this. When tanker drivers working for Shell struck at two of the companies in 2008 they won a 14 percent pay rise—with the help of drivers at other companies who refused to cross picket lines.

If they were to strike now, petrol supplies would quickly run out at forecourts and airports across the country.

This would deliver much more than negotiations alone.

By law Unite had until Tuesday evening to call strikes, although the deadline could be deferred if bosses grant the union an extension or if Unite calls a token one‑hour strike.

Unite is also re-running the ballot at one of the companies in the dispute, Hoyer Petrolog.

It is concerned that some members may not have received ballot papers—which would leave it open to legal threats under the anti‑union laws.

Hoyer tanker drivers had voted 60 percent in favour of strikes on a turnout of almost 80 percent.

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Tue 24 Apr 2012, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2300
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