Union stands firm against hauliers and says drivers will take industrial action on Monday unless threat is lifted


The threat of disciplinary action by French road haulage firm Norbert Dentressangle to striking drivers must be withdrawn or strike action will begin on Monday, Unite has warned.

Around 60 Unite oil tanker drivers voted earlier this month by a resounding 100 per cent for strike action to defend their pensions and terms and conditions. The first day of action took place on Monday, following which Norbert Dentressangle issued threats to charge the workers with gross misconduct.

The drivers deliver fuel for Tesco and GP chemicals out of Runcorn on contracts run by Norbert Dentressangle.

Unite has said it is prepared to suspend Monday’s 24-hour stoppage after receiving assurances that the drivers’ pensions will be based on ‘guaranteed earnings’ and not basic earnings as had been threatened.

But the union has warned that unless the threat of disciplinary action is withdrawn from all members immediately, the drivers will be out on strike this Monday.

Drivers were issued with letters, requiring them to attend a disciplinary hearing today (Friday 20 January) to discuss alleged acts of ‘gross misconduct’ following the first of four planned 24-hour stoppages held on Monday 16 January.

The dispute was ignited over attacks on terms and conditions and the company’s plans to down grade workers pensions from defined benefit (final salary) schemes to inferior defined contribution (money purchase) schemes, as well reducing pension contribution levels from gross earnings to basic earnings. The move means drivers receiving at least £4,000 less a year in retirement.

Unite regional officer Tommy Kirwan said: “Norbert Dentressangle’s strong-arm tactics are shameful.  A company that has to frighten its workers out of exercising their rights is a company that has lost all sense of reason.  We are telling the workforce: do not be scared by these bully-boy threats; you are within your rights to withdraw your labour.

“Attempts to downgrade workers’ pensions is spreading like wildfire across the industry. The public and politicians want responsible capitalism but we are seeing very little responsibility in the oil industry.  Oil giants call the shots, squeezing the pay, pensions and terms and conditions of oil tanker drivers who do a demanding job, delivering fuel safely and on time.

“Progress can be made in this dispute but not while the threat of disciplinary action hangs over the heads of the workers.  Withdraw this threat, let talks continue, and we can call off the action for Monday.”

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