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Don't turn fuel strike into a national emergency, hauliers say

Posted: 29th March 2012

With the looming spectre of a fuel strike leading to chaotic scenes on the forecourts, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has pleaded for it not to be turned into a national emergency.

So far, no date has been set for the strike and seven days' notice must be given by Unite, but even the threat of strike action by some tanker drivers is causing widespread panic buying in parts of the UK.

Commenting on the dispute over minimum standards and growing instability in the oil industry, RHA chief executive Geoff Dunning said: “Many drivers of fuel tankers are not members of Unite, so those who have voted for strike action are in a minority."

"Furthermore, these drivers are all paid much more that the average for truck drivers generally, typically receiving over £40,000 per year.

"We are also concerned at the union’s implication that safety standards are low.

"The UK fuel distribution sector applies standards that are far above the legal minimum, with highly professional, well trained and properly rewarded drivers delivering the UK’s fuel."

The RHA believes the forecourt queues are just a taste of what a real strike would do. The association explained that many hauliers have little or no ability to store fuel beyond what they normally use on a day-to-day basis, so any shortage of supply would have an immediate impact on their businesses and disrupt supply chains.

"The safe delivery of fuel is of paramount importance: any concerns can and should be examined carefully, and adequate procedures for addressing such concerns already exist. But the reliability of fuel supply is equally significant and should not be jeopardised," Dunning said.

Discussing the situation yesterday, Unite welcomed the prospect of meaningful talks through Acas in a bid to resolve a dispute, saying that the union wants to avoid a strike, if possible.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: "Unite has said all along that we want a negotiated settlement through meaningful talks."

"Our focus is in finding a settlement that halts the race to the bottom in an increasingly fragmented industry. The minimum standards we are seeking are no different from those covering other parts of the oil industry.

"We trust that the employers, and the supply chain, including oil majors, will engage with us and that the government will do everything in their power to help us avoid industrial action." 

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