Talks urged to avert fuel tanker strike

 

Downing Street urged unions and oil companies today to get round
the table for talks to prevent a tanker drivers' strike, as senior
ministers met to draw up contingency plans to keep vital services
moving.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet were this morning briefed on plans to put military personnel through an eight-day training course to take the place of striking drivers behind the wheel of commercial tankers. But Downing Street said the training has not yet started, as discussions with companies are still under way.

Asked whether motorists would be well-advised to rush to the petrol stations and fill up their tanks in the wake of last night's overwhelming vote for industrial action, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "I think people should draw their own conclusions."

And she added: "Businesses and those who rely on vehicles for their work should ensure contingency plans are in place. It is always prudent to have contingency plans in place."

The spokeswoman said that the Government was sending out a "strong message" to both sides in the dispute that they should "get round the table and discuss this, because a strike and the disruption that would follow is in nobody's interests, particularly the UK economy's".

Around 2,000 members of the Unite union at seven companies were balloted for the first national campaign of action for over a decade, with those at five firms backing walkouts.

The union said strikes were supported by an average of 69% in the five firms, which deliver fuel to Shell and Esso garages as well as supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's. Unite drivers supply fuel to 90% of the UK's forecourts and the union said a strike could close up to 7,900 petrol stations.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude briefed colleagues on the Government's preparations to deal with any strike at this morning's weekly meeting of Cabinet, which followed a meeting of senior ministers from the departments of Transport, Energy and Environment, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Maude said the Government had "learnt the lessons" of the previous disruption to petrol supplies in 2000, when pumps ran dry around the country, and was putting plans in place to keep Britain moving, but acknowledged that there was still "more work to be done".

"This was the fourth ministerial meeting on the resilience measures being taken regarding a pending fuel tankers' dispute," said the Downing Street spokeswoman.

"There was a ballot last night and there is the potential for a dispute. This is a dispute between an employer and employees, but clearly the ramifications if there is a strike are that there will be disruption and the Government is taking all the contingency plans we can, including ensuring that emergency services are in a good position should there be an impact on fuel distribution."

She declined to say whether this meant that stockpiles of fuel were being built up for use by emergency workers.

The spokeswoman said it would not be possible to train enough military personnel to cover for all missing tanker drivers in the case of a strike, but said that "other options" were being considered.

"There are discussions ongoing between the MoD and companies that have tankers in order that we can be in a position to train army personnel to drive those," she said. "Clearly there is a period of time while those drivers achieve the correct qualifications. It takes eight days.

"The number of military personnel who would be able to do this doesn't cover the distribution network, so other options are being looked at."

Downing Street said that the authorities were "generally speaking better-placed" than in 2000 to deal with the effects of a disruption to fuel supplies.

Labour leader Ed Miliband this morning said a strike should be avoided "at all costs" and urged both union and company chiefs to get round the table and negotiate.

Mr Miliband said: "We must avoid strike action at all costs, and the right way to do that is by both sides getting round the table and negotiating.

"That's what the Government should be urging, that's what I'm urging, and that's what the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is urging."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas