Belfast Telegraph

Fuel sales fall after strike fears spark panic buying

By Alan Jones

Sales of fuel over Easter fell by almost a third compared with a year ago after panic buying by motorists when the Government advised them to top up tanks because of the threat of a strike.

The Retail Motor Industry said that over the four-day weekend sales of unleaded petrol were 29% lower than 2011, with diesel down 2.9%.

Some motorists already had plenty of petrol after panic buying last month, while some garages were out of stock, said the RMI.

The bad weather also contributed to fewer people travelling, it was suggested. Garages were swamped with motorists at the end of March after ministers urged them to keep their tanks topped up after fuel tanker drivers voted to go on strike.

There were chaotic scenes and long queues at garages across the country following the Government's advice, which was heavily criticised.

Labour led calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude for advising motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in garages.

Talks aimed at averting strikes by the tanker drivers were adjourned last night and will resume today. Leaders of the Unite union spent all day negotiating with officials from six haulage firms under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

The dispute over terms and conditions and health and safety has been brewing for more than a year but flared up last month when Unite announced that workers in five firms had voted to strike.