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Petrol strike to leave motorists without fuel

Petrol strike to leave motorists without fuel

Strike action by tanker drivers could close hundreds of petrol forecourts within days.

A walkout by 650 drivers would again strand motorists in many parts of the country without fuel. It comes weeks after the Grangemouth refinery dispute, which hit forecourts in the North.

This latest dispute could affect 1,000 forecourts, as well as several hundred industrial outlets.

The drivers, who supply the vast majority of Shell forecourts, are calling for a pay rise of 13 per cent. The company, Hoyer UK, has offered 6 per cent.

A vote last week resulted in the drivers voting overwhelmingly for industrial action. A last-ditch meeting to try to resolve a strike is scheduled for tomorrow. But the gap between employees and Hoyer, who are contractors for Shell, is so large that a resolution seems unlikely. Company sources said they were “shocked” by the level of the pay demand.

Hoyer says its 6 per cent offer would see the average driver’s £36,000 salary rise to £38,500. The union is calling for a minimum wage for all drivers of £36,000.

One source from the union Unite, which represents the drivers, said its members had the capacity to seriously disrupt supply of petrol. There is also the threat of secondary picketing which means other petrol stations could be affected.

The source said: “This will bring petrol forecourts to a halt and picket lines will not be crossed.”

Union officials had hoped that Shell would give Hoyer “room to manoeuvre”. But they admitted that more money was unlikely to be made available and that strike action was inevitable.

If the meeting fails to resolve the dispute then the walk-out could be as early as this week, or the beginning of next week.

A spokesman for Hoyer said: “We remain hopeful that this can be resolved, and in particularly that the union will engage. This offer, which is way above inflation, is a no strings offer and one that we think is generous. The offer would take the average to £38,500.”

Hoyer’s drivers work out of terminals across mainland Britain delivering to petrol stations and other outlets.

The company contracts out about 530 drivers to Shell and another 130 drivers are employed on a similar contract to supply other retailers.

Ron Webb, Unite’s national officer, who said last week that food price rises and the spiralling cost of living should be reflected in the salaries, attacked Shell’s “stratospheric profits”.

Tony Woodley, the union’s joint general secretary, described the level of profits in the oil industry as “obscene”.

Earlier this year Shell reported annual profits of £13.9 billion, a record for a UK-listed company. Much of the rise has been attributed to increased oil prices.

The Government is under pressure from Unite to levy a windfall tax on the oil companies, but the Treasury is likely to rule out the measure.

Last week, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, gave his strongest hint that he will postpone the planned 2p rise in fuel duty.

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