LAST Wednesday afternoon, the Unite trade union reps for its tanker driver membership rejected the employers’ offer, and the union was due to present its dates for strike action by the following Friday, yesterday, or else reballot its membership.
Unite, however, confirmed on Thursday that it would be returning to Acas on Monday (23 April) for continuing talks with the employers, and that five of the employers had agreed to extend the union’s ballot mandate until Tuesday 24 April.
Meanwhile, Unite announced that it was going to reballot the 530 tanker drivers of the sixth employer, Hoyer Petrolog, since not all of them had received a ballot paper in the original ballot.
This means that while all six employers will be involved in the continuing talks, only five of the companies can be called out to take action next Tuesday, if there remains no agreement – as is likely – because the sixth company is being reballoted between 26 April and 8th May.
The Hoyer tanker drivers had voted 59.7 per cent in favour of strikes on a turnout of almost 80 per cent in the previous ballot.
Commenting, 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.’
Unite is retreading the ground that it traversed during the BA cabin crew dispute when it balloted, then reballoted and finally called a number of limited actions, avoiding strike action over Easter and avoiding an all-out collision with Labour.
Now once again, not all of the membership has received ballot papers, and once again in the words of Diana Holland, the Unite leaders ‘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’.
Their priority is to the stable and secure supply of a vital commodity, not to the requirements of their membership in terms of their wages and safety requirements.
A few weeks ago the Tory plan to re-run the Thatcher era and take on the tanker drivers using troops as strike breakers was revealed to all.
The Tories even started a run on petrol to help build up the crisis atmosphere.
However, they were forced to retreat by one of the strongest sections of workers in the country, and also by the pledges that were being made by thousands of lorry drivers and others that they would blockade the oil terminals as soon as the dispute started to prevent the army strikebreakers shifting oil and fuel around the country.
During those few weeks the crisis of the government was revealed for all to see, and it has developed since in the form of the pasty and granny tax scandals, and the ‘Carry On Abu Qatada’ comedy with the Home Secretary May caught napping at every turn.
For any trade union leader worth his or her salt there has never been a better time to call strike action to cripple the coalition and the employers and to win the demands that their membership is making, and in the process rid the country of this accursed coalition, which has now apparently fallen so deeply in love with the ways of the military that it wants all children to stand to attention when their parents enter the room.
Instead of prevaricating and retreating, the unions’ leaders must be made to fight and call decisive action to win struggles, or else resign and make way for those who will!