Strikes averted after tanker drivers accept deal

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A strike by tanker drivers has been averted after they voted narrowly to accept a peace deal intended to end a long-running row over terms and conditions.

Unite said members working for seven distribution firms backed the deal by 51 per cent overall, although drivers at four firms 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 called for an investigation by the energy select committee into the industry.

Long queues formed at garages earlier this year when an initial vote in favour of strikes sparked panic buying. The Government was criticised for urging drivers to keep their tanks filled and to store fuel in 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.”

Turnout across the seven firms was 69 per cent, with drivers in Turners, Hoyer, Wincanton and DHL voting against the deal, and those in BP, Norbert Dentressangle and Sucklings voting in favour.