More fuel tanker driver talks are due to be held today with Acas after the deadline for Unite trade union was extended to 5pm tomorrow (April 24). This follows the union and its members rejecting a proposed deal that aimed to avert industrial action. With the rejection, the union declared a token one-hour fuel delivery strike for Friday, April 27 to meet the previous deadline to call action. However, now the action has been postponed due to the extension and pending the negotiations to be held today.
In regard to the deal being rejected, about 60 Unite officials turned it down after six days of talks between the union and six fuel distribution companies. Despite this, it’s believed the representatives have made progress on many issues in the dispute, which is over training, pensions, and health and safety.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said last week that, while there’s been some progress, it’s clear their members need more assurances and guarantees from their employers about their dedication to meaningful minimum standards. They are still committed to reaching a negotiated settlement that brings security and stability to an important industry and gives, the public and workforce confidence that the race is ending, she added.
Acas chief conciliator Peter Harwood said at the time that they were naturally disappointed that the deal had been rejected after the intense talks held between the parties over the last two weeks. They were contacting the parties to find a way forward, he added. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said they were disappointed as well, though they understand these are complex issues. They urge the parties to work towards a resolution, as the government believes any strike would be unnecessary and wrong, he added.
Then later last week, Unite announced that an agreed extension of its deadline to call a strike had been lifted. This is because the fuel distributors approved the extension with Acas, as well as agreed to fresh talks for today. The union had been planning a one-hour strike for Friday, but this has now been put off.
It’s understood Unite was considering the token strike under the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, which would have allowed them to maintain their strike mandate for another three months. This would have given the fuel tanker drivers more time to make a deal with their employers. A source said that the token strike wouldn’t have had any impact on fuel supply, while it would have removed false deadlines, which could have the union going through this same scenario every Friday.
Holland has expressed optimism that a resolution can be reached and has called on the public not to panic. She said it’s clear that they aren’t on strike and haven’t announced one. They feel they are able to come to an agreement in the dispute and are determined to do so, she added.
All of this also comes as Unite is getting ready to reballot is Hoyer staff, who account for about 25% of its 2,000 tanker driver members. The fuel distributor raised legal concerns about the initial ballot, so the union announced that it would hold a new strike vote for the company. Holland confirmed that some members at Hoyer hadn’t received ballot papers, which triggered a new ballot for industrial action.
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