After drivers working for logistics firm Wincanton took two rounds of seven-day strike action in February, the Unite union will ballot 2,000 fuel tanker drivers for national strike action.
Drivers across the fuel haulage industry are facing attacks on jobs and conditions. Unite wants to end what it calls the “contract merry-go-round and beat-the-clock culture” now endemic in the industry. Companies where workers will be balloted are Wincanton, DHL, Hoyer, BP, J.W Suckling, Norbert Dentressangle and Turners, accounting for 90% of distribution to the UK’s petrol station forecourts.
Unite official Matt Draper said: “For over a year we have strived to talk some sense into this industry but they have shown no genuine interest in bringing stability to the supply of this vital national commodity.
““This is not about pay – this is about ensuring that high safety and training standards are maintained so that our communities are safe. It is about a simple measure, the creation of an industry-wide bargaining forum. It is about bringing fairness and stability back to an industry that is now controlled by faceless global giants.
“This is a clear case of a predatory industry putting its profits and greed before the wider well-being. This workforce is now saying enough is enough.”
Employers are already fighting back. Just one day after the strike ballot was announced, six drivers working a Norbert Dentressangle contract out of the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland (delivering to Tesco forecourts) were sacked. The six also happened to be the only Unite members working the contract. The workers were told they were surplus to requirements but were told shortly afterwards to get on with their day’s work anyway.
Draper said: “This is a disgraceful act by Norbert Dentressangle (ND). It is callous to tell workers their jobs have been axed and then in the same breath tell the workers to get on with the job.
“Why on earth would an employer think this is a responsible act? These workers are driving tankers full of fuel on public highways. They need to be entirely clear in their mind when they hit the road.”