51% of drivers working across main seven UK hauliers vote to accept Acas ‘peace deal’, averting UK fuel strike

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A strike by tanker drivers has been averted, with drivers voting narrowly to accept proposals tabled after eight days of talks at Acas.

51% of drivers working for seven major oil distribution firms accepted the proposals, which include the introduction of an industry-wide accreditation, or ‘passport’, covering safety and training.

Turnout was 69% of more than 2,000 Unite members involved in the year-long dispute over safety and minimum pay levels.

Some drivers have said pressure from employers and the government left them with little choice because it was likely ministers would deploy hundreds of soldiers to drive fuel tankers in a strike-breaking operation if industrial action went ahead.

Despite the overall vote in favour, Unite members at four of the seven firms voted to reject the proposals.

Today was the final date on which Unite could call strike action under a ballot of members in March, which triggered a wave of government-led panic buying at forecourts across the UK.

The government had also publicised its training plans for soldiers to replace civilian drivers in the event of a national strike.

Unite members involved in the dispute supply around 90% of forecourts in the country.

Officials warn that the overall narrow ‘yes’ vote left the companies with no room for complacency, although the decision leaves unresolved Unite’s long-standing demand for a minimum salary floor across the industry.

Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland said: “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.

“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.”

In a statement, Acas’ chief conciliator, Peter Harwood, who presided over eight days of negotiations spread across three weeks, welcomed the vote. “Acas is very pleased at the outcome of the Unite ballot,” he said.

“The dispute was a very complex one and both the employers and the trade union representatives worked very hard during long sessions at Acas to shape a solution that addressed the issues facing the sector.”

Unite says it it committed to holding the companies to account over further assurances given to tanker drivers over longer contracts and improved terms during the consultative ballot, in particular to Wincanton, Turners, Hoyer and DHL.

Following the vote, the first meeting on implementation of the Acas proposals must be held before June 1st.


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