The Unite union was set to decide on Wednesday of this week whether to call almost 2,000 petrol tanker drivers out on strike—or to accept a secret offer from six major haulage companies.
Drivers at five companies voted to strike last month.
Bosses and union representatives met through the Acas conciliation service.
The firms agreed to an extension of the ballot, giving Unite extra time to decide its next moves.
Meanwhile the government has confirmed it is continuing to arrange contingency plans to break the strike. It is training army troops to deliver petrol to forecourts.
This could be dangerous. Driving these vehicles is a skilled job involving potentially dangerous equipment and materials.
But most of the jobs have been outsourced from the oil companies to private contractors.
These have competed to reduce costs by forcing down drivers’ pay, moving them from one pension scheme to another and lowering standards for training and safety.
Drivers are demanding a national negotiating forum for the union, the contractors and the oil companies to stop the “race to the bottom”.
Around 60 leading Unite activists from across the sector were set to meet on Wednesday to decide whether to accept the bosses’ offer. As part of the union leaders’ agreement with Acas and the bosses, they were keeping the details of the offer confidential as Socialist Worker went to press.
But the events of the last few weeks show the power that the tanker drivers have.
They should hold out for secure agreements on their pay, pensions and conditions.
And if the bosses have offered anything less Unite should call action now—before the government has time to train its military scabs.
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