Fuel Strike Threat Averted After Peace Deal
A strike by fuel tanker drivers has been averted after the Unite union voted to accept a peace deal.
After eight days of talks with conciliation service Acas, Unite said 51% of all its members had backed proposals to end a long-running dispute over job terms and conditions.
But tanker drivers in four out of the seven oil distribution companies involved in the row voted to reject the peace deal.
The union warned the vote left no room for "complacency" and it wanted rapid implementation of proposals agreed during the mediation talks.
Unite said the dispute had highlighted "deep-seated problems" in fuel supply and announced it was calling for an investigation by the Commons 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: "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."
Unite, which had recommended rejection of the deal, said the "calamitous" comments on storing fuel made by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude showed 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."
Welcoming the outcome, Acas chief conciliator Peter Harwood said: "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.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the agreement was good news for UK plc.
He said: "Just the threat of a strike caused a lot of disruption, but at least businesses across the country can get back to focusing on what they do best - driving the economy forward and creating jobs."
The Government also welcomed the deal, but said the army would have been prepared to step in if a stoppage had gone ahead.
Mr Davey said: "A strike would have been disruptive to the lives of millions of hard-working motorists around the country, and put unnecessary pressures on our essential and emergency services.
"Around 1,400 military drivers have been trained and we had expected to be able to maintain the majority of fuel deliveries to forecourts."