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Fuel peace talks to resume tomorrow

Talks aimed at averting strikes by fuel tanker drivers have been adjourned and will resume on Tuesday.

Leaders of the Unite union spent all day at the conciliation service Acas to try to reach a deal with distribution companies to end a row over a number of issues including pensions and terms and conditions.

Peter Harwood, Acas chief conciliator, said: "Acas talks have adjourned for the day. I am encouraged that the parties are still positively engaged in the process. Talks will reconvene tomorrow morning."

Unite will have to decide on Tuesday whether to call industrial action. Under employment law the union will have to give seven days' notice of any walkouts.

The two sides have already held six days of talks, but tanker drivers' representatives overwhelmingly turned down a proposed agreement despite progress being made on some of the issues involved in the row.

The new talks will involve Hoyer, even though Unite is to re-ballot its members at the firm after the union discovered that a number of its members had not received ballot papers during the original voting last month.

Unite represents around 530 drivers at Hoyer, one of the biggest distribution firms, which delivers fuel to Esso and Shell garages. The Hoyer workers, who voted 59.7% in favour of strikes on a turnout of almost 80% in the previous ballot, will vote again, from April 26 to May 8.

After the row flared last month the Government advised motorists to top up their cars with petrol and to store fuel in jerry cans, leading to panic buying and shortages of supplies.

There were chaotic scenes at garages as long queues built up, leading to criticism of the Government for the way they handled the dispute.

Despite the rejection of the deal by drivers' leaders, progress was made on a number of issues including pensions, health and safety and training.


From Belfast Telegraph