Fuel and petrol stocks will be hit if oil distribution employers fail to end the attack on tanker drivers’ livelihoods forcing strike action closer, trade union Unite has warned.

The union, which has over 3,000 oil tanker driver members, wrote to employers last month to encourage them to back a fuel oil distribution sector-wide collective bargaining forum.

The forum would bring together major players from the supply industry, including oil majors Shell and BP, and haulage companies such as Wincanton and JW Suckling, to agree to the introduction of industry minimum standards, including pensions and health and safety standards.

The union is urging the new minister for energy Ed Davey to take seriously warnings that the fuel supply is too important to be left to market forces.

Unite said this forum is needed to restore stability to a nationally vital sector which has become worryingly volatile after a decade of contracting out by the oil majors.