Still low on fuel – and it may get even worse
SCOTLAND'S fuel stocks are expected to come under fresh pressure over the next few days as the effect of industrial action by tanker drivers continues to feed through to the forecourts.
At 6am today, Shell drivers were due to end their four-day pay strike that disrupted fuel supplies at about 140 of Scotland's 960 petrol stations.
Last night, it emerged that tanker drivers from other companies had joined protests outside the Grangemouth fuel depot on the final day of the stoppage, with other picket lines set up in Inverness and Aberdeen.
Talks aimed at resolving the dispute will take place today between the Shell drivers' employers and the Unite trade union.
But the drivers say they will stage a second four-day strike this weekend if an agreement cannot be reached.
Despite the action being originally limited to Shell drivers, no fuel has left any depots in Scotland as drivers from other distribution firms refused to cross picket lines.
It was reported yesterday that 11 drivers employed by Scottish Fuels had been suspended for refusing to do so.
Although the Shell drivers are due to return to work today, the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) warned fuel shortages were likely to get worse.
Douglas Anderson, from the SMTA, said: "Over the last 24 hours, the situation has changed as people went to fill up for the week ahead. We would encourage motorists to buy fuel as normal. We are anticipating that it will take until Wednesday before we see supplies returning to normal."
It said fuel stocks in Fife were under pressure as a result of panic buying.
With a possible new strike looming next weekend if the dispute drags on, there was more bad news for motorists yesterday when the price of crude oil rocketed to a record high. The average price of unleaded petrol is now 118p a litre, while diesel is 131.3p – although in some parts of the country it is even more expensive.
But with oil hitting an unprecedented $139.89 a barrel last night, garages are expected to pass on even more increases to motorists.
It comes amid fresh concerns about the state of Britain's economy, with a leading investment bank in the City warning there was a 40 per cent chance of a recession.
Meanwhile, throughout the UK, the number of garages running out of fuel was estimated to be about 620, out of 8,900.
The AA said its patrol staff had reported widespread shortages and queuing at pumps in Wales and south-west England. Long queues formed on the M5 near Exeter as cars waited to fill up, while at a Texaco station in Barry, South Wales, there was chaos due to queuing on main roads.
The AA said that in south-east England, several Shell stations had only a couple of pumps working, while reports from Worcestershire indicated that finding diesel was a problem. Some garages in Bournemouth ran dry last Friday night.
Edmund King, the AA president, said: "The impact of the strike is really being felt today, particularly in Wales and the south-west.
"In some areas, motorists are struggling to find fuel. We would like to see clearer signing at the garages, as it is not always clear that pumps have run dry."
THE drivers walked out at 6am on Friday but, despite the strike, informal contact was maintained between the two sides, leading to yesterday's formal negotiations.
The sides have clashed over the drivers' pay, with the companies insisting they had offered a 13 per cent rise, which would take average earnings to about 41,500 by the end of the year. The union maintained that the drivers were on a basic rate of 31,800 and were claiming a rise to increase that to 36,000.
Unite has criticised Shell for being "greedy" by not increasing payments to the haulage companies involved despite making huge profits.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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