The leader of one of Britain's biggest unions yesterday threatened to disrupt the nation's fuel supply unless oil companies addressed concerns over safety and pensions among tanker drivers.
Sir Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G), warned that while no one wanted to see another fuel blockade, drivers would walk out if management continued to refuse to negotiate. High staff turnover, poor safety procedures and attacks on pay and pensions were leading to an "increasingly volatile" industrial climate, Sir Bill said. Training procedures had been cut back to the extent that drivers were now delivering 44 tonnes of hazardous fuel "after little more than a few hours' instruction".
He urged oil companies and transport businesses to join an industry-wide forum to discuss the future of petroleum delivery as well as improve conditions for the 3,000 tanker drivers who belong to the T&G. Sir Bill said oil firms could not continue to "disregard" the views of tanker drivers. "The industry has a stark choice - it either talks to us around the negotiating table or faces our members at the refinery gate."
Employees were complaining that they were forced to work without any company pension provision, while executives were awarding themselves huge final salary packages. Sir Bill said: "An industry responsible for the delivery of such vital and hazardous materials cannot continue to put the pursuit of profit before safety and stability. Our members are enduring an intolerable working environment. Lives are being put at risk and cost-cutting is causing instability in an essential industry."
Geoff Dossetter, of the Freight Transport Association, said tanker drivers were trained to an extremely high standard. "The instruction of drivers is ... rigorous," he said.