Striking tanker drivers ‘in this for long haul’

BP tanker drivers moves a heater as they picket the entrance to INEOS Grangemouth in an ongoing dispute over pensions. Picture: PA
BP tanker drivers moves a heater as they picket the entrance to INEOS Grangemouth in an ongoing dispute over pensions. Picture: PA
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STRIKING tanker drivers warned BP last night they were “in this for the long haul” after some filling stations faced possible delivery delays.

The Unite union said 42 drivers who began a three-day stoppage at the Grangemouth refinery yesterday were “resolute” in their dispute over pay and pensions.

However, BP said fuel stocks at the 112 filling stations and airports affected by the action were at “good levels” after beingreplenished from elsewhere. Unite said the drivers would impose an overtime ban after returning to work on Monday, and this would be followed by a further four-day stoppage from Thursday.

BP said it had brought in supplies from other refineries and companies for 100 filling stations – mostly in Scotland – and 12 airports it normally supplies from Grangemouth.

They include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Newcastle airports.

About two-thirds of thegarages that sell BP fuel are independently owned. However, the Petrol Retailers’ Association (PRA), which represents independent filling stations, said some of its members had been told deliveries might be delayed by a day, though that was unlikely to cause them to run out.

However, the PRA expressed concern that things might get worse with a second strike due next week.

Chairman Brian Madderson said some forecourts in the Central Belt had reported a 5-10 per cent increase in fuel sales.

He said the impact of drivers “taking precautions” by buying extra fuel was likely to have a greater impact on supplies than in the past, because many motor­ists now drove around with emptier tanks because of high prices.

Mr Madderson said many filling stations also held minimum stocks for the same reason.

The PRA said it had been told by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change “that the industry had been working to ensure there is a good level of fuel supplies at forecourts in preparation for the current strike and therefore motorists should buy fuel as normal”.

Edinburgh is thought to be the airport most likely to be affected by a supply shortage because it has smaller storage tanks than Glasgow, despite overtaking it as Scotland’s busiest airport seven years ago.

An Edinburgh airport spokesman said: “It’s business as usual this weekend, but we are monitoring the situation closely and our team will continue to discuss potential contingencies with our business partners to minimise disruption.”

BP said it usually made 45 filling station and 22 airport deliveries on weekdays from Grangemouth, and 25 and 20 respectively on Saturdays and Sundays. BP accounts for more than a fifth of the 300 daily deliveries from Grangemouth among the seven firms which take stocks from the refinery.

Its spokesman said: “We have known action was in the offing for some time, so we have made sure there are good supplies at petrol stations and airports.

“Contingency plans have been under way over the last week, with supplies from other terminals and companies. We are content our stocks are at good levels.”

The industrial action came after 90 per cent of the drivers balloted voted for strikes to defend their pension rights and protest at the loss of a company share scheme when 15 of them are switched from airport suppliers Air BP to another firm, DHL, in two weeks’ time.

Unite claimed some drivers could be up to £1,500 a year worse off over the loss of the share-match scheme and some stood to lose up to £13,000 a year from their pension on retirement when the changes happened. Unite industrial officer Tony Trench said, “We’ve had a tremendously solid start to this strike action and our members are resolute in our pursuit of pay and pensions justice. We’re in this for the long haul.”

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty added: “There needs to be stability in this industry. Because of the tendering process, these companies tend to compete with one another, so terms and conditions suffer as a result. There is a fundamental flaw in employment legislation which means pensions are not protected and so we get to this race to the bottom.”

BP declined to comment on the union’s claims.

The Scottish Government said it had called on both sides to take the dispute to the conciliation service Acas. Finance secretary John Swinney said: “I have spoken with both Unite and BP to encourage them to resolve this issue before any strike action was called. I am therefore disappointed a resolution has not been found to date.

“It is now essential that additional efforts are made to resolve the dispute, and I have asked both parties to meet with Acas as a matter of urgency to seek a resolution. I am confident the necessary contingency arrangements are in place to minimise disruption to the public.”

A Unite spokesman said: “We’re not going out of our way to inconvenience anybody, but I think anybody who was going to be undertaking the scale of cuts that our members are would take the same course of action.

“On Monday morning a ban on overtime begins. For an industry that has its backbone built on overtime, we’ll see how that transpires.”