Fuel Strike Threat As Drivers Reject Deal
Leaders of fuel tanker drivers have rejected a deal aimed at averting strikes but want further talks, the Unite union says.
Around 60 representatives of drivers at seven haulage firms discussed proposals drawn up during six days of negotiations with the conciliation service Acas.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland told reporters progress had been made in the talks, but not enough.
"The overwhelming feeling was the proposals do not go far enough in guaranteeing industry-wide minimum standards, terms, conditions and pensions," she said.
"We remain committed to achieving a negotiated settlement that brings stability and security to a vital industry."
The row is over a series of issues including terms and conditions, pensions and health and safety.
Ms Holland said: "We call on the employers to engage with us so that we can reach a meaningful settlement that brings an end to the uncertainty in the industry."
Unite urged motorists not to panic buy and stressed that it had not yet decided whether to name any strike dates.
The union only has until Friday to call a strike and will have to give seven days' notice of industrial action.
The drivers' representatives are keen to return to Acas, possibly as early as Thursday.
Sky's chief political correspondent Jon Craig said: "As one source put it to me, don't go reaching for your jerry cans just yet because they do want to go back to Acas.
"And they want to do it with some urgency, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning because it the words of Unite sources they do want to do a deal, they do want to avert a dispute."
A spokesman for Hoyer, one of the firms involved, described Unite's decision as a "serious blow".
"The team from Hoyer, along with other key industry employers, engaged fully and professionally in these talks and remain open to negotiation with a view to achieving a positive resolution to this dispute and avoid the possibility of any damaging strike action by Unite," he said.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: "We are disappointed that an agreement has yet to be reached.
"We understand that these are complex issues but urge both parties to work towards a negotiated resolution with the support of Acas.
"The Government continues to believe that any strike action would be wrong and unnecessary."
The row flared up last month after Unite announced that drivers in five companies had backed strikes.
In response, the Government advised motorists to top up their cars with petrol and to store fuel in jerry cans, leading to panic buying and shortages of supplies.
There were chaotic scenes at garages as long queues built up, leading to criticism of the Government for its handling of the dispute.