Pickets were out at twelve fuel depots from 6am yesterday as over 600 Shell tanker drivers empl-oyed by two companies, Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, began a four-day strike over pay.
Strikers, members of Unite trade union, held placards reading ‘Shell profits gush’ and ‘Drivers’ pay trickles’.
Talks aimed at averting the strike ended without agreement on Thursday night.
Pickets were out at Stanlow in Cheshire, Grangemouth, Avonmouth, Plymouth, Pembroke, Cardiff, Kingsbury, Basildon, Aberdeen, Inverness, Jarrow, and Luton Airport.
At Stanlow, a number of tanker drivers not employed by the two firms refused to cross picket lines.
Tanker drivers from companies such as BP turned around to the cheers of striking workers.
Unite said it expected the knock-on effect to be felt almost immediately.
Liverpool Airport was first to be affected, asking airlines to fill their tanks before heading there.
Shell, which runs one in ten of the country’s fuel stations, warned that some of its stations could run out of fuel. It acknowledged that the impact would be ‘significant’.
Unite (TGWU) assistant general secretary Len McCluskey, after the talks broke down on Thursday night, said: ‘This dispute could have been resolved if Shell had advanced a fraction of the billions of pounds in profit they make every month.
‘One of the world’s richest companies is prepared to play Pontius Pilate and see the British public inconvenienced rather than settle this dispute for a sum smaller than the chairman’s pay increase last year.
‘Provision has been made for fire, police and the emergency services.’
Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley joined the picket line at Stanlow, Ellesmere Port.
He said: ‘Driving a fuel tanker is a skilled and dangerous job. The drivers are on £31,800. That is not a great deal of money.
‘If they had remained with Shell, workers would be on £46,000.’
Unite stressed that since being contracted out, the tanker drivers still earn the same as they did in 1992 when they were directly employed by Shell, which has refused to intervene.
Business Secretary John Hutton urged both sides to resume negotiations, adding: ‘The strike, which will have a disproportionate effect on people in Britain, cannot be justified.’
One of the leaders of the 2000 fuel protests, David Hanley of Farmers for Action told News Line yesterday: ‘I understand where the tanker drivers are coming from, and the anger with Shell that are making profits that are almost immoral.
‘In our opinion, the salary paid to the staff should reflect those profits.’
• Tanker drivers will be out for another four days from next Friday.
Unite yesterday gave the employers a week’s notice of further strike action.