A strike by tanker drivers has been averted today (Friday 11 May) with drivers voting narrowly to accept proposals tabled after eight days of talks at Acas.

Members of Unite the union, working for seven major oil distribution firms, voted by 51% overall on a turnout of 69% to accept the proposals, which include the introduction of an industry-wide accreditation, or ‘passport’, covering health safety and training. Despite the overall vote in favour, members working in four of the seven firms voted to reject the proposals.

Unite warned that the overall narrow ‘yes’ vote left the companies with no room for complacency. The union stressed that fundamental problems remain in the industry with urgent action needed to halt the race to the bottom and bring stability and security to the supply of a vital commodity.

The union went on to add that the dispute highlighted deep-seated problems in the petrol supply, exacerbated by a mantra of ‘profits before stability’. Unite announced that it would be urging the Energy and Climate Change select committee to investigate the resilience of a vital industry.

Over the coming weeks the union will be working with the seven oil distribution firms, the Department for Energy, Environment and Climate Change (DECC), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other interested parties to implement the Acas proposals.

Unite also restated its commitment to hold the companies to account over further assurances given to tanker drivers over longer contracts and improved terms during the consultative ballot. The vote sends a strong warning to all companies, in particular Wincanton, Turners, Hoyer and DHL.

The vote brings a negotiated end to the dispute, during which cabinet office minister Francis Maude sparked panic buying at petrol stations across the UK by advising people to fill up jerry cans with petrol.

The consultative ballot involved over 2,000 tanker drivers working for Wincanton, DHL, Hoyer, BP, Norbert Dentressangle, Turners and Suckling.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “This narrow vote in favour lifts the threat of strike action, but leaves the companies with no room for complacency. We look forward to the rapid implementation of the Acas proposals which include an industry-wide ‘passport’. The progress made through negotiation is testament to the brave stance members have taken in the face of growing insecurity and attacks on their profession.

“The narrow vote in favour should be a ‘wake-up’ call for an industry riddled with deep seated problems. This is why we are writing to the Energy and Climate Change select committee urging them to investigate the instability in the industry.

“Francis Maude’s calamitous intervention highlighted that this country runs on unstable, short fuel supplies. It is not a jerry can in the garage we need, but a review of whether the industry is structured in the national interest. We trust that energy secretary Ed Davey and other ministers will take a more constructive approach in helping us bring stability and security to a nationally vital industry.”

The first meeting to take forward the implementation of the Acas proposals must be held before 1 June.

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