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Tanker driver ballot result due

Fuel distribution firms will hear on Friday if they face the renewed threat of strikes by tanker drivers in their long-running dispute over terms and conditions.

Members of Unite at a number of companies have been urged to reject the latest offer, drawn up after talks between the two sides at the conciliation service Acas.

There were long queues at garages across the country earlier this year when an initial vote in favour of strikes sparked panic buying - the Government was criticised for urging motorists to keep their tanks filled up and to store fuel in jerry cans in garages.

Unite members at one of the firms, Hoyer, who were re-balloted, voted earlier this week against walkouts but in favour of other forms of industrial action. The drivers voted for a second time after it was discovered that some workers did not receive papers during the last ballot.

Unite said 57.5% of members on a turnout of 79.5% voted for action short of strikes in the re-ballot of drivers at Hoyer which delivers fuel to Esso and Shell garages.

In the ballot of more than 500 drivers, a "significant minority" of 39.2% voted for strikes which Unite said demonstrates continuing unease over the "growing uncertainty and instability" in the industry.

Unite said that while progress had been made in the talks on health, safety and training, representatives at last month's special oil trades conference recommended rejection of a proposed deal, following employers' "failure" to give sufficient guarantees on maintaining standards, security of employment, pensions and sub-contracting.

The union has to give a week's notice of any industrial action before the end of the Friday to comply with strike laws.

The company said it had put forward constructive proposals aimed at ending the dispute and reassuring employees on the future of their pensions.

"However, the union has failed to take up the offer, which would have put hundreds of pounds into the pockets of all employees with no loss of pension benefits," said a statement.

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