A STRIKE by tanker drivers has been averted after they voted narrowly to accept a peace deal aimed at ending a long-running row over terms and conditions.
Unite said its members working for seven distribution firms backed the deal by 51% overall, although drivers in four of the companies voted to reject.
The union said the vote left no room for “complacency” and it wanted rapid implementation of proposals agreed during talks at the conciliation service Acas.
Unite said the dispute had highlighted “deep-seated problems” in fuel supply and announced it was calling for an investigation by the energy select committee into the industry.
There were long queues at garages across the country earlier this year when an initial vote in favour of strikes sparked panic buying. The Government was criticised for urging motorists to keep their tanks filled up and to store fuel in jerry cans in garages.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “This narrow vote in favour lifts the threat of strike action, but leaves the companies with no room for complacency. We look forward to the rapid implementation of the Acas proposals which include an industry-wide ‘passport’.
“The progress made through negotiation is testament to the brave stance members have taken in the face of growing insecurity and attacks on their profession.
“The narrow vote in favour should be a wake-up call for an industry riddled with deep-seated problems. This is why we are writing to the select committee urging them to investigate the instability in the industry.”
Unite, which had recommended rejection of the deal, said the “calamitous” comments on storing fuel made by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude showed that the UK runs on “unstable, short fuel supplies”.
Ms Holland added: “It is not a jerry can in the garage we need, but a review of whether the industry is structured in the national interest. We trust that Energy Secretary Ed Davey and other ministers will take a more constructive approach in helping us bring stability and security to a nationally vital industry.”
Acas chief conciliator, Peter Harwood, said: “Acas is very pleased at the outcome of the Unite ballot. The dispute was a very complex one and both the employers and the trade union representatives worked very hard during long sessions at Acas to shape a solution that addressed the issues facing the sector.”
Turnout in the ballot across the seven companies was 69%, with drivers in Turners, Hoyer, Wincanton and DHL voting against the deal, and those in BP, Norbert Dentressangle and Sucklings voting in favour.