Fuel Tanker Strike Elicits Hostility from Freight and Road Haulage Groups

Posted on 27th March 2012 By Steve Clark

UK – The announcement from the Unite union that a successful ballot of around 1200 tanker delivery drivers means Britain may be devoid of fuel over Easter has elicited no sympathy from fellow road haulage and freight interests. The fact that thousands of smaller local filling stations have closed in the past few years will inevitably impact the availability of diesel and petrol supplies. A vote to strike from half of 2,000 Unite members eligible to vote means industrial action is likely with accusations today that only the failure of 12% of those balloted to cast their votes swung the decision.

The tanker drivers concerned supply not only main fuel company garages like Esso and Shell but also the major supermarket groups accounting for around 90% of deliveries to UK forecourts. In recent times there has been a move toward less but larger retail outlets whilst the actual storage of fuel in underground tanks has not increased as fast with existing facilities relying on the same below ground equipment but with faster and more regular delivery schedules. This leaves a situation where stocks may rapidly dwindle with little chance of replenishment in a strike situation.

Speaking on the potential stoppage a statement from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is critical of the move saying it is “disappointed” by the decision at a time when the price of fuel is of paramount importance to UK hauliers and the general public. It continues, “The Association believes that this action, when fuels prices are so high, by drivers who enjoy amongst the best working terms and conditions in the haulage industry, will not be welcomed by hauliers and the public and will have a negative impact on the economy.”

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite union said today that his union members working conditions are under threat and that safety is being undermined, without elaborating on this. He said, “If the employers don’t come and see us there will be strike action,” and went on to refuse to guarantee there will not be a suspension of labour over the Easter period.

None of the road haulage drivers and freight forwarding representatives we spoke to showed any sympathy to the tanker fraternity saying that with average wages often double that of most ordinary HGV drivers this was not the time to ‘hold the country to ransom’. The Government is preparing troops to maintain supplies of fuel should the dispute lead to a strike.