Tanker drivers warn oil industry bosses to take their heads out of the sand

14 January 2011

The greed of an industry worth billions has led to mounting frustration amongst Britain’s oil and petrol tanker drivers, whose union representatives have agreed to ballot their members for industrial action. The ballots are likely to take place next month.

Unite union representatives have warned the oil industry that employers must take their heads out of the sand and realise that the constant attack on tanker drivers’ terms and conditions must stop.

Over the past 10 years, multiple contractors responsible for the delivery of oil and petrol supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets across the country have been consistently squeezing the terms and conditions of around 3,000 tanker drivers. The constant transfer of contracts between contractors has led to drivers’ wages, pensions and working conditions being eroded. The pattern has become particularly pronounced over the last 18 months.

The drivers’ demands are reasonable. They are calling on the industry to introduce national standards to stop this race to the bottom. However, the main players in the industry have refused to even meet with the unions to discuss the proposals. Last September Unite wrote to the oil companies and the retailers asking for a meeting to discuss its members legitimate concerns, however Unite was turned down. In the same month the union wrote to the haulage companies asking for a meeting, Unite was turned down.

Unite general secretary-elect, Len McCluskey, said: “Tanker drivers play a crucial role in the economy, delivering fuel safely and on time, but their industry which is worth billions is content to attack the drivers’ pay, pensions and conditions.

The price of oil is heading for $100 a barrel, this is not an industry suffering like many others, the profits are astronomical. Employers have their heads in the sand, if they think they can continue to attack these drivers’ terms and conditions.

This is not about pay. Our demands are very reasonable. We are calling for national standards to bring stability to the industry. It would benefit our members but it would also benefit the multitude of contractors in the industry too.

Time and workers’ patience is running out, so we appeal to the key stakeholders to engage with Unite urgently to find a better way forward.

Minimum standards on safety and decent terms and conditions are a prerequisite for success in this sector. The attacks on workers’ pensions must cease and the merry-go-round where drivers can have as many as 12 different employers must stop too. Quite simply enough is enough.”

Unite expects the employers to get round the table to resolve the outstanding issues through negotiations. However, In the past when disputes did get to the point where industrial action was required the union ensured that fuel supplies for essential services were not affected.



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