Tanker drivers from Britain’s largest union today voted in favour of strike action in protest over safety concerns and “growing” job insecurity in the fuel industry.
Members of Unite working for five major fuel distribution firms delivering fuel for household names, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, BP, Shell and Esso backed industrial action by an average of 69%.
Drivers at two other distribution companies voted against strike action.
Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary for Unite, which represents the 2,000 members involved in the action, said: “These votes send a clear message throughout the industry and should prompt all the major companies to get around the table to establish minimum standards.
“This is not about pay – this is about ensuring that high safety and training standards are maintained, so that our communities are safe. It is about a simple measure, the creation of an industry-wide bargaining forum.”
She criticised oil giants for “raking in profits while shirking their responsibility for the stable supply of a national commodity”.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change rebuked the union for proposing a strike, saying it was the “wrong action at the wrong time”.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “The Unite ballot result is disappointing. The Government is strongly of the view that strike action is wrong and unnecessary.”
Mr Davey criticised the union for “unacceptable and selfish” behaviour, warning a strike could “jeopardise our international reputation” in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics.
He added: “The union should be getting round the negotiating table, not planning to disrupt the lives of millions of people across Britain.”
Over the weekend, the Government began training army personnel to drive fuel tankers as part of a contingency plan for the strike action.
British oil giant Shell would not comment. BP said it was “disappointed” by the move, since it and several fuel distributors are still in “on-going discussions” with Unite about an industry- wide bargaining forum.