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Category : Business

Deadline for announcing industrial action by fuel tanker drivers passes without Unite trade union setting walkout dates

Talks to avert a petrol strike went to the wire on Tuesday night as a deadline for announcing industrial action passed without the Unite trade union setting walkout dates.

Unite and fuel distributors were still talking at the Acas conciliation service as the 5pm deadline for preserving the union’s strike mandate expired. Unite had been considering the option of setting token one-hour strikes next week in order to extend its mandate, but it was unclear whether the union had served notice of industrial action on fuel distributors.

Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at Acas, said: “Both parties have made confidential arrangements to enable Acas talks to continue into the evening. Therefore you will appreciate no further details can be given at this time.”

Unite and six fuel distributors met for talks after drivers rejected peace proposals last week. Unite had balloted more than 2,000 tanker drivers for industrial action in a dispute over setting common standards for safety, training and introducing minimum pay levels. Although Unite welcomed proposals on health, safety and training, the union said progress on maintaining standards and limiting the impact of subcontracting on employees were not acceptable.

One of the largest fuel distributors, Wincanton, hit back last week and warned that setting minimum pay levels was impossible, while defending the industry’s record on health and safety. Wincanton, which employs 20% of Unite’s tanker driver membership, warned that room for further concessions in peace talks was limited. It also indicated that distributors were running out of patience, saying that this week’s talks would last for a “maximum” of two days.

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