Friday, May 11, 2012

Road Haulage Groups Breathe More Easily As Fuel Strike Threat Lifts

Government and Unions Both Criticised for Poor Attitudes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Road haulage interests gave a sigh of relief today at the news that Britain’s tanker drivers have voted by the narrowest of margins not to pursue their intention to strike following a catalogue of PR errors by unions and Government alike. The original union ballot was centred around pay and conditions but met with a hail of criticism from truck drivers and private motorists alike following the revelation of the average tanker drivers annual wage.

The union reverted to a claim that the strike was about safety not money, dismissed with scorn by many observers, and today Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said her members had taken a ‘brave stance in the face of growing insecurity and attacks on their profession’ perhaps demonstrating the influence which the strength of public opinion had in causing a reversal of the original vote.

For their part the Government’s ineptitude, particularly Francois Maude’s comment that motorists should fill their tanks and keep fuel stored in their garages, simply caused a rush of panic buying at a time when no strike action had even been voted on and fetched heavy criticism regarding fire safety.

The simple fact was that, had the 2,000 drivers working for the seven principal tanker haulage groups withdrawn their labour the country would undoubtedly been left short of fuel despite Government promises to utilise army personnel, this at a time when the Forces are heavily engaged overseas and there is simply nowhere near the amount of vehicles nor trained staff available to maintain garage stocks.

According to Unite 51% of truck drivers balloted had voted for the proposed peace deal although drivers from four of the companies concerned had actually rejected the offer. The union says the vote was taken by 69% of those eligible and the problems within the industry remain ‘deep seated’. RHA Chief Executive Geoff Dunning summed up the thoughts of the road haulage industry saying:

“Although there have been several companies involved in this dispute, it is one of the biggest, Hoyer, that has voted against strike action. However we are not out of the woods yet. Although the tanker drivers have voted against strike action, they have not ruled out other forms of industrial action. This is a critical time for the fuel industry and for users of fuel. It is therefore vital that common sense prevails.

“Fuel stability is vitally important and a consistent supply is as important as a consistent cost. The drivers have agreed that strike action would be detrimental to the economy, we now have to persuade Government that a 3 pence per litre increase in fuel duty on 1st August would be equally, if not more, damaging to the economy as a whole.”