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Shell locked in talks to avert tanker drivers walking out

The Independent

Shell locked in talks to avert tanker drivers walking out


By Jonathan Brown
Thursday, 12 June 2008



An injured fuel protester after riot police clashed with demonstrators in Almeria, Spain, yesterday


Talks to avert a planned strike by petrol tanker drivers were hanging in the balance last night after retailers and unions criticised the Government for raising the spectre of panic buying at the pumps by warning that shortages could lead to another round of price hikes.


With the rest of Europe facing widespread disruption from protesting hauliers, and with simmering discontent among British motorists at rising prices, negotiators were locked in an attempt to settle the dispute between 641 drivers and two sub-contactors for the oil firm Shell ahead of a planned four-day walkout, due to begin at 6am tomorrow.

If it goes ahead, deliveries to nearly 1,000 petrol stations could be suspended over the weekend, with Downing Street warning that the action could impact on the “lives and livelihoods of millions” and urging the public to “continue to buy as normal”.

Petrol retailers warned that the Government’s attempts to calm the situation were in danger of backfiring. “As long as people are told not to panic, then they will be fine,” a spokesman for the Petrol Retailers Association said.

A source at Unite, the union representing the drivers, echoed disquiet at the handling of the situation, saying of No 10: “They don’t seem to be finding the right tone of voice in this dispute.”

Gordon Brown is desperate to avoid a repeat of the scenes in 2000 when lorry drivers blockaded oil refineries, prompting chaotic scenes at the pumps and bringing parts of the country to a standstill. Downing Street has been at pains to point out that its latest travails were caused by an industrial dispute among drivers seeking a 13 per cent pay rise, and are not fuel protests.

It said it had already opened the way to allow oil companies to bypass competition laws and share information on fuel stocks – a move used during a recent strike over pensions by Unite members at the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland.

Retailers, meanwhile, were continuing to insist that shortages are unlikely as Shell is just one of the six main players in the market, supplying approximately 10 per cent of Britain’s 9,500 forecourts. Yet, under the present supply model, shortages can occur extraordinarily quickly, with the system based on the premise that most people only partially fill their tanks each time they visit the pumps.

An AA spokesman said: “Filling stations work on a similar basis to supermarkets trying to have only as much stock as they need, so they don’t run dry. If everybody with half a tank is filling up, there could be problems. That would throw out delivery schedules, compounding an already worrying situation.”

Talks between the union and the employers Hoyer and Suckling UK were being held at a secret location under the guidance of the conciliation service Acas.

Fuel protests around the world


The Spanish car industry said yesterday that it had been paralysed by a strike by lorry drivers angry at rising fuel costs.

The motor manufacturers association said that, by today, all 18 car factories would be idle because of a lack of parts and fuel.

Lorry drivers began an indefinite strike on Monday. Queues of vehicles up to five miles long formed at Spanish-French border crossings in Catalonia and the Basque country.

A striking trucker on a picket line at a market in Grenada was run over and killed by a van on Tuesday.


Thousands of lorry drivers staged a half-day strike yesterday to demand government protection against rising fuel prices.

Thongyu Khongkan, the leader of the Land Transport Federation of Thailand, said that if the government did not meet its demands by 17 June, it would mobilise its lorries in the capital, Bangkok.


A one-day strike over rising fuel costs closed shops and banks in Indian Kashmir yesterday. Police used water cannon and batons to disperse hundreds of angry government workers.

Yesterday was also the third day of a four-day strike in Kashmir calledby transport operators demanding an increase in passenger fares and freight charges.

India raised fuel prices by 10 per cent last week after the cost of subsidies brought state oil companies close to bankruptcy. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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