Tankers Strike Troops Stand By

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Formal talks between Unite trade union officials and Shell suppliers are due to resume today, as hundreds of petrol stations have begun closing.

Informal talks to resolve the tanker drivers’ dispute had been continuing over the weekend but with no resolution.

The 641 drivers working for Shell’s two supply contractors, Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, end their first four-day strike at 6am tomorrow.

They are due to stage an overtime ban ahead of a further four-day strike this Friday.

Unite joint leader Tony Woodley said: ‘This should have been solved six months ago.

‘Shell outsourced my members’ jobs years ago to cut costs and have been very successful at the workers’ expense.

‘Despite what management is saying, our members are on a basic wage of £31,800 and if they had remained working for Shell that would now be £46,000.

‘What we are asking for is a basic wage of £36,000.’

He added: ‘It would cost just £1m to solve this dispute – money they have already saved from the workers’ pension scheme alone.’

Meanwhile, the Brown government has put the Army on standby to drive fuel tankers and instructed police forces to break up any picket lines that threaten to prevent tankers from leaving or entering fuel depots.

Emergency powers to order petrol rationing will come into force today.

The government fears that mass picketing at refineries and distribution depots will disrupt industry plans to keep petrol flowing at the pumps.

A number of BP and other tanker drivers have been refusing to cross picket lines already.

By Saturday, the second day of the strike, 112 petrol stations had run dry.

The overtime ban will see petrol stations not receiving the stock they need before supplies are disrupted again by the next strike.

Yesterday saw motorists facing fuel shortages in several parts of the country, with the worst difficulties reported in parts of central Scotland, and the north west and south west of England.

A spokesman for the UK Petroleum Industry Association said: ‘This has been due to the impact of picketing at some refineries.’