Unite to re-ballot fuel tanker drivers

 

Fresh talks aimed at averting strikes by fuel tanker drivers are to be held next week, raising hopes that industrial action can be averted.

The conciliation service Acas announced that leaders of the Unite union and officials from six distribution companies will meet on Monday.

Unite has also been given an extension to next Tuesday before it has to make a decision about calling industrial action.

The two sides have already held six days of talks but tanker drivers' representatives overwhelmingly turned down a proposed agreement yesterday despite progress being made on some of the issues involved in the row.

The new talks will involve Hoyer, even though Unite is to re-ballot its members at the firm after the union discovered that a number of its members had not received ballot papers during the original voting last month.

Peter Harwood, Acas chief conciliator said: "The employers and Unite have agreed to an extension of the validity of the ballot period for a further four days until Tuesday, to enable these talks to take place."

Unite represents around 530 drivers at Hoyer, one of the biggest distribution firms, which delivers fuel to Esso and Shell garages.

The Hoyer workers, who voted 59.7% in favour of strikes in a turnout of almost 80% in the previous ballot, will vote again, from April 26 to May 8.

Unite's assistant general secretary, Diana Holland said: "We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with Hoyer and the other employers that brings stability and security to the supply of a vital commodity

"It has come to our attention that a number of people did not receive ballot papers. This is a concern because we believe that everyone should have a say. We will be seeking a fresh mandate from our members in Hoyer who like all tanker drivers face a race to the bottom in an increasingly fragmented industry."

The union has appealed to motorists not to panic buy petrol, pointing out that no strikes have been set.

After the row flared last month the Government advised motorists to top up their cars with petrol and to store fuel in jerry cans, leading to panic buying and shortages of supplies.

There were chaotic scenes at garages as long queues built up, leading to criticism of the Government for the way they handled the dispute.

Despite the rejection of the deal by drivers' leaders, progress was made on a number of issues including pensions, health and safety and training.

PA

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