Fuel distribution companies have responded to Unite’s plan for industrial action, after tanker drivers at five out of seven firms voted to strike.
Wincanton, where drivers voted for the strike, said: “It is disappointing to see that some of our drivers have voted in favour of industrial action, which we believe is wholly unnecessary. The exact reasons for the dispute remain unclear.
“We remain committed to an open dialogue with Unite and to continuing discussions with our employees. The result of the ballot is not a true reflection of sentiments across our business; in fact, almost a third of our 440 drivers did not return a vote, meaning that less than 50 per cent support any form of industrial action.
“Our drivers are among the best rewarded in the industry, with average earnings of £45,000 per annum. They are professional, highly skilled and take immense pride in their work. A 15 per cent year-on-year reduction in accidents over the past five years and a recent safety award by the Energy Institute demonstrate that our health and safety standards are among the highest in the sector.
“Along with the six other distribution businesses that were balloted, Wincanton has actively supported the Fuels Forum, which was set up by Unite last year to promote areas such as minimum health and safety standards. We therefore believe that this dispute is unfounded and targets the wrong section of the market.”
A spokesperson for DHL Supply Chain said: “We are delighted that our tanker drivers have voted against taking strike action, which would have caused massive disruption to our customers and the general public. Moving to sector-wide collective bargaining can only increase instability in the current market and jeopardise those employers, including DHL, whose drivers already enjoy industry-leading working practices and Health & Safety measures.”
The Road Haulage Association says it is disappointed that Unite tanker have chosen to strike at a time when the price of fuel is of paramount importance to UK hauliers and the general public.
It said: “The Association believes that this action, when fuels prices are so high, by drivers who enjoy amongst the best working terms and conditions in the haulage industry, will not be welcomed by hauliers and the public and will have a negative impact on the economy.”
Unite has called on Energy secretary Ed Davey to intervene in the dispute. Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said the union was strongly committed to talks and to achieving a negotiated resolution. The oil companies, retailers and employers were currently the barrier.
The government could help avoid confrontation by bringing to the table all the stakeholders in the downstream oil distribution sector, she said.