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Talks over tanker drivers’ strike set to resume

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Talks over tanker drivers’ strike set to resume

By Andrew Taylor, Employment Correspondent

Published: June 16 2008 01:50 | Last updated: June 16 2008 01:50

Talks between striking tanker drivers and employers are to resume on Monday in a bid to prevent another strike taking place next weekend.

Petrol retailers say there should be enough fuel to last out the final day of the current four-day strike – which ends at 6am on Tuesday – by 640 drivers employed by hauliers supplying more than 900 Shell garages.

The resumption of talks is seen as encouraging in a dispute that had increasingly appeared to be deadlocked.

Bernie Holloway of Hoyer UK, the largest of Shell’s suppliers, said: “We are pleased that this step forward has been made and will make every effort to draw these talks to a successful conclusion.”

John Hutton, business secretary, said: “Although the strike has inconvenienced motorists, they have shown commendable common sense and restraint which has minimised its harmful impacts.”

The Petrol Retailers Association had earlier said that most forecourts remained open over the weekend and should have enough fuel to last out the final day of the strike, which ends at 6am on Tuesday. Shell said only 8 per of cent of the UK’s 8,838 forecourts had been hit “by shortages of one or more of fuel grades”. However, it warned that “with another day of strike still to come, it is inevitable that in time we will continue to see more difficulties with supply”.

Unite, the drivers’ union, has rejected a pay offer of 7.3 per cent this year and 6 per cent next year which hauliers say would raise the 640 drivers’ average annual earnings to “around £41,500 ($81,000)”.

Unite has demanded a 13 per cent rise this year and blames Shell, which outsourced transport in the 1990s, for holding down contract prices and curbing pay rates for drivers. It says wages have in effect stagnated since 1992.

Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary, said Hoyer and Suckling did not have the money to settle the union claim because Shell was being “greedy”. He said tankers were the equivalent of “mobile bombs” and drivers deserved higher pay.

Hoyer insists its pay rates are competitive. It says drivers have had rises of 27 per cent over the past four years – twice the rate of inflation.

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