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‘Make or break’ talks in Shell dispute

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‘Make or break’ talks in Shell dispute

By Andrew Taylor

Published: June 5 2008 02:51 | Last updated: June 5 2008 02:51

Tanker drivers threatening a strike over pay which could halt petrol deliveries to Shell are due to meet employers on Thursday in a “make or break” meeting.

The 500 drivers voted for industrial action after their claim for a 13 per cent pay rise was rejected by haulage companies Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport. The two companies are sole suppliers to Shell forecourts.

Unite, representing the drivers and the country’s biggest union, said that representatives were due to meet Hoyer, the biggest Shell supplier.

Hoyer said on Wednesday that it had offered drivers a 6 per cent rise, which would increase the average annual salary from £36,000 to £38,500. It said that the company had increased pay by 27 per cent in the past four years, which was “twice the rate of inflation”.

Bernie Holloway, a Hoyer director, said: “We are very disappointed by the response from the union, but are committed to reaching a solution.”

Union officials warned that talks could last several days.

Ron Webb, Unite national secretary for road transport, said: “In the first quarter of this year alone, Shell banked £4bn ($8bn) in profit, yet they continue to force cost-cutting through their supply chain and shorter contracts on to contractors, with constant pressure and demands on our members to improve productivity, which they have delivered.

“Our members’ dedication helped Shell make its vast profits. All they are asking for in return is a living wage, one that reflects their skills, their heavy working week and helps make ends meet at a time when every worker in the country is being hit hard by rising fuel and food prices.”

The union said that drivers worked an average 48-hour week with many taking home £23,000 after tax. It wants a minimum wage of £36,000.

Mr Webb said: “Shell would be far better placed if they were to stop stuffing their shareholders’ pockets and ensure their contractor Hoyer had the resources to conclude a deal that is acceptable to our members and will prevent disruption for the country.’’

The latest dispute comes just weeks after 1,200 workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery went on strike over changes to their pension arrangements.

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Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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