Annoucement from conciliation service follows meetings with fuel haulage employers. Government says it will not be involved in talks ‘at this stage’


The conciliation service has announced that talks between Unite and fuel haulage employers will begin on Wednesday.

A spokesperson said: “We have now held briefings with all the relevant parties and can confirm that substantive conciliation talks will take place on Wednesday 4 April.”

The statement follows several hours of talks involving ACAS officials and representatives of seven major employers.

The companies – Wincanton, DHL, BP, Hoyer, J W Suckling, Norbert Dentressangle and Turners – supply around 90% of the UK’s petrol stations.

More than 60% of Unite members across the seven voted to strike in the long-running dispute.

Officials say the meetings will begin on Wednesday morning at an undisclosed location.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey (pictured) said: “We welcome this development and thank ACAS for its efforts to pull all parties together.

“We call on the government to play its part and encourage the oil companies and major retailers to engage as well.

“For nearly two years, we have been trying to persuade the fuel distribution sector to work with us to defend best practice across the industry.

Government sources said they welcomed the fact that both Unite and the employers had agreed to meet to try to resolve the immediate issues of pay and working time which had triggered the strike ballot.

A spokesman at the Department of Energy and Climate Change said ministers hoped there would be a swift and negotiated settlement.

He said officials would be prepared to help resolve concerns over health and safety issues ‘where we can’, but stressed that the government is not involved in the ACAS talks at this stage.

Earlier, petrol retailers again criticised Coalition ministers for triggering a ‘frenzy of withdrawal’ by motorists in last week’s wave of panic buying.

Brian Maddison from the Retail Motor Industry (Petrol) said between 30 and 50% of garages are still out of stock of one or more lines of petrol or diesel, following a spike in sales of 81% and 43% respectively last week.

ACAS is keen to stress that the format of complicated negotiations such as this, involving one union and several different employers can involve numerous meetings and briefing sessions, but they say negotiators will be ‘as flexible as we need to be’ to try to secure an agreement.

Said Len McCluskey: “We believe these matters can be resolved through meaningful negotiations.  But to give these talks a chance of success, there must be an immediate end to mischievous briefing against the drivers.

“Talk of 27 per cent pay rises from nameless employers is a deliberate effort to undermine the drivers’ case when employers know full well this is not a demand.  Distortions like this must stop.

“These talks must be given the best chance of succeeding.

“The issues facing this industry are serious. It is beholden on all parties now to work constructively to solve them.”

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