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Petrol crisis looms as Shell faces drivers strike

Daily Telegraph

Petrol crisis looms as Shell faces drivers strike

Fears of a new petrol crisis have deepened after lorry drivers for Shell’s suppliers announced a four day strike.

The walkout was announced after the collapse in talks between Unite and two companies who deliver fuel to Shell.

As a result around 1,000 forecourts could be starved of fuel unless a deal can be brokered next week by the arbitration service, ACAS.

Although Shell owns only 10 per cent of forecourts across the country, there are fears that the strike threat could trigger another wave of panic-buying.

Unite, which is representing 641 drivers working for Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, has submitted a demand for a 13.2 per cent pay increase.

The companies said they had offered Unite a 6.5 per cent pay rise which would have taken drivers’ average earnings from £36,500 to £39,000.

However feelings are running high within the union – who believe Shell, rather than its contractors, are to blame.

According to union sources, the drivers are ready to picket 13 distribution centres across the country as part of its industrial action.

The strike threat comes six weeks after the Grangemouth refinery was shut by a weekend strike.

Then the Government sought to persuade motorists not to panic-buy fuel,

This time, according to the AA the biggest threat is faced by rural motorists who depend on their local Shell station and those on motorways who plan to fill up at service stations which the company supplies.

They include Taunton Deane on the M5 and Fleet on the M3.

Chris Hunt, director general of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, said the impact of a walkout was unclear.

“A lot will depend on whether Unite members cross a picket line,” he said.

“At best we expect there will be an impact on Shell stations, but others will be able to take up the slack.

“It will have no impact on prices, however, because Shell is just one of a number of suppliers.”

Earlier in the day around 500 motorcyclists staged a fuel protest go slow in Manchester as last ditch talks started to head off a strike by tanker drivers.

They were joined by local lorry and taxi drivers in the mass demonstration which took place on the M62, M602 and A57.

This was the latest in a series of protest to highlight the plight of road users.

Last week lorry drivers descended on London and Cardiff and fishermen, who rely on diesel and heavy oil to power their trawlers have also staged protests.

Increasing public anger is intensifying pressure on Gordon Brown to scrap plans for a two pence increase in fuel duty which should come into force in October.

Those calling for the increase to be abandoned include a number of Labour MPs who fear that it could hit the party, which is already languishing in the opinion polls, badly at the next election.

They include one of the Manchester MPs, Graham Stringer.

The Government is becoming increasingly unpopular with motorists who have seen their tax burden reach £1,800 a year – a 50 per cent rise since Labour came to power.

Mr Brown is also under pressure to ditch the backdated tax disc increases which would hit the existing owners of “environmentally unfriendly” cars.

“The government has not reacted quickly enough to the pressures on the household budgets,” he said.

“The 2p increase is an example of that and we need to take action.”

Even though prices on the world oil markets have started to fall, there is little sign of motorists benefiting at the moment.

According to the AA pump prices are still running at a record high, with petrol selling for 116.59 pence a litre on Wednesday and diesel at 129.94.

This means a motorist with a Vauxhall Astra is paying £9.82 more to fill the tank with petrol than a year ago.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2080478/Petrol-crisis-looms-as-Shell-faces-drivers-strike.html

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