Socialist Worker

Tanker drivers' dispute ended by narrow vote

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2303

Oil tanker drivers in the Unite union effectively ended their dispute at seven haulage companies last week, voting by a narrow margin to accept an offer from bosses.

Overall 49 percent voted to reject the deal—and at four of the seven companies they were the majority, including at Wincanton, where drivers struck earlier this year.

Some of their key demands have not been met, including a minimum pay level and an agreement on transferring pensions when drivers are moved from one company to another.

But there will now be a national “passport” agreement on training and safety.

Unite recommended drivers reject the offer, and says that fundamental problems remain in the industry.

But it is the union’s leadership, not the members, who wasted the mood to fight.

Drivers delivered a massive vote for action in March—at some companies as high as 94 percent.

Yet Unite went straight into talks at the Acas conciliation service. Reps voted overwhelmingly to reject the bosses’ first offer, but still Unite wouldn’t call strikes and went back into talks.

It even had to rely on bosses agreeing to extend the legal deadline on its ballot, long after it became clear that they were not willing to be moved by negotiation alone.

It is testimony to the drivers’ anger that so many still voted to continue the dispute.

Oil tanker drivers are among the most powerful groups of workers in the country.

A strike by them would paralyse the economy within days—and could have won much more.

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Article information

Tue 15 May 2012, 16:57 BST
Issue No. 2303
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