Tanker drivers union urges talks
Leaders of fuel tanker drivers threatening a strike over terms and conditions and safety standards have urged the Government to convene an urgent meeting with employers and oil companies in a bid to avert industrial action.
Unite wrote to Energy Secretary Ed Davey setting out its case for minimum standards in the industry, covering pay, hours, holiday and redundancy arrangements.
Workers in five of seven companies involved in the row have voted in favour of strikes, raising the threat of walkouts over the Easter weekend, when millions of families will take to the road for the first major holiday of the year.
Unite represents around 2,000 drivers, who deliver fuel to Shell and Esso garages as well as supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's, covering 90% of the UK's forecourts.
Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said in her letter: "We have been tireless in seeking talks to avoid industrial action, but we have been frustrated at every turn.
"The Government can help avoid confrontation by bringing to the table all the stakeholders in the downstream oil distribution sector - employers, oil companies, retailers and the trade union with an agreement to establish minimum standards in a timely fashion."
Downing Street earlier urged Unite and oil companies to hold talks to prevent a strike, as senior ministers met to draw up contingency plans to keep vital services moving.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet were briefed on plans to put military personnel through an eight-day training course to take the place of striking drivers behind the wheel of commercial tankers, although Downing Street said the training had not yet started.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the Government had "learnt the lessons" of the previous disruption to petrol supplies in 2000, when pumps ran dry around the country, and was putting plans in place to keep Britain moving, but acknowledged that there was still "more work to be done".
Labour leader Ed Miliband said a strike should be avoided "at all costs" and urged both union and company chiefs to get round the table and negotiate.