THE union representing fuel tanker drivers today ruled out the threat of strikes over Easter and said it wanted to focus on peace talks.
Unite, which represents around 2,000 tanker drivers, said it retained the right to call industrial action if talks, expected to start next week, break down.
The move followed more panic buying at garages across the country today, and an incident in which a woman was badly burned when petrol ignited as she transferred it between containers in her kitchen.
Meanwhile the Petrol Retailers Association said petrol sales increased by more than 170% yesterday, while sales of diesel were up by almost 80%.
Unite and the seven distribution companies involved in the dispute are in contact with the conciliation service Acas, but no substantive talks will be held until next week.
The union said it had been trying for more than a year to establish minimum standards in the fuel oil distribution industry and halt a “race to the bottom”.
Officials called for minimum standards on health and safety procedures, training, pensions, rates of pay, hours and holidays, equal opportunities and disciplinary procedures.
Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through Acas. We do still retain the right to call strike action for after the Easter, should those talks break down.
“It should be stressed that what we are seeking is reasonable and no more than what is in place elsewhere in the industry. There have been minimum standards governing the offshore oil industry since 2000 covering health and safety, training, and terms and conditions.
“This is not a political dispute. It is an industrial dispute and the Government’s recent rhetoric will not help us achieve a negotiated settlement. They must set aside their political objectives and work with us, the employers, retailers and oil companies to achieve an outcome that is good for the industry and the country.”