Fuel drivers set for talks to halt strike

 
Marion Dakers
TRADE unionists and fuel haulage firms are due to meet this week in a bid to avoid a strike.

The Unite union has said it will take part in talks with dispute resolution group Acas and the seven tanker companies, where more than 2,000 drivers have voted in favour of industrial action.

However, thousands of truckers in the Fuel Lobby group have raised the stakes of the negotiations by vowing to blockade depots and roads in support if a strike does take place.

Motorists were still feeling the after-effects of panic buying at the weekend, with queues at the pumps subsiding but numerous forecourts in greater London reporting ongoing fuel shortages due to delivery delays.

London’s transport and emergency services representatives will meet today to review plans to keep vital services running in the event of a strike, Mayor Boris Johnson said, adding that he wants the dispute “knocked on the head”.

And foreign secretary William Hague has defended cabinet office minister Francis Maude after his advice to store fuel in jerry cans sparked frantic stockpiling.

“The country is in a better state of preparedness than it was a week ago for the eventuality of a tanker strike so I think [ministers] have handled that correctly,” he told the BBC. “My colleagues… would have been criticised either way.”

But a poll by ComRes showed that more than 80 per cent of people thought the government “has created an unnecessary panic over the fuel crisis”.