Fuel tanker firms & union set for talks over strike threat
REUTERS & AFP
LONDON TALKS to head off a threatened strike by British fuel tanker drivers will take place on Wednesday, a mediation body said, over a dispute which has led to criticism of the government and already prompted panic-buying by motorists.
The Unite union, which represents the 2,000 drivers who have voted for a strike, and the seven haulage firms which supply Britain’s petrol stations have now agreed to hold discussions, said ACAS, the independent industrial mediation body.
“We have now held briefings with all the relevant parties and can confirmthat substantive conciliation talks will take place on Wednesday, April 4,” an ACAS spokesman said.
Unite drivers supply fuel to 90 percent of British forecourts and any strike would see supplies dwindle after 48 hours.
However, the union needs to give seven days notice of any action and last Friday ruled out any strike until after Easter.
The issue has seen Prime Minister David Cameron and his ministers accused of incompetence and creating a crisis themselves after advising motorists to top up their cars and fill jerry cans in preparation.
That led to long queues at filling stations, some of which ran out of fuel altogether as demand increased by 172 percent over an average day.
The truckers dispute covers a wide range of issues from safety concerns to work conditions and drivers’ pensions.
World oil prices sank on Monday, continuing the previous week’s downtrend, as traders digested the latest batch of data on the Chinese economy.
New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, dropped 58 cents to $102.44 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for May shed 95 cents at $123.34 a barrel in midday London trade.
China said on Sunday that manufacturing activity last month hit its highest level since March last year, tempering recent concerns of a sharp slowdown in the world’s largest energy user.
The official purchasing managers index rose to 53.1 from 51 in February, helped by an increase in new orders, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said.