Unite has announced that it is to ballot BP tanker drivers who deliver fuel to Sainsbury’s forecourts. The trade union said the 240 drivers, around 200 of which are Unite members, work on the

BP Logistics Contract delivering fuel to the supermarket’s sites around the UK. According to Unite: "Sainsbury’s decision to put the contract out to new contractors, with the fuel supply operated by Greenenergy with the labour supply contracted out to two further companies, the Transport Development Group (TDG) and Turners, will dismantle long-standing negotiating structures and attack the union’s ability to represent its members. It is also concerned that up to one tenth of the workforce would be dismissed from their jobs."

The ballot was due to run from today until December 1st.

Ron Webb, Unite’s national officer for the logistics sector, said: "This union has been working day and night to try to get these companies to talk about a way forward. Their failure to reach agreement now means that we now have no other option but to ballot because our members are not prepared to see their union forced out and their terms and conditions attacked. The drivers want the security of knowing that their union can sit down on their behalf and negotiate directly with their employers, and we are determined to protect this for them.

"This is about respecting the drivers’ union and our members’ terms and conditions. We are in no doubt that unless this unwarranted attack on the drivers’ union is abandoned, with all parties agreeing a way forward, there will be a major dispute.

"The existing negotiating arrangements have served all parties very well so there is absolutely no sense in dismantling them. To do so is to sow the seeds of industrial unrest and risk supplies of fuel to Sainsbury’s. We urge both the contractors and Sainsbury’s to see sense and get back round the table quickly.

Unite added that it wanted Sainsbury’s to adopt the bargaining arrangements Shell uses on its split contracts, "which is to retain a single negotiating structure. This means that when changes to terms and conditions are proposed by one employer, they go to all employers working on the contract. This ensures that parity of pay and terms is maintained between drivers."

A BP spokesman said: "The issues raised by the union are matters for the drivers’ new employers to address. BP is working closely with the Unite union and drivers’ representatives to ensure their transition to their new employers is as smooth as possible."