Transport@WCT  052

Wincanton says it is “extremely disappointed” that Unite failed to persuade its tanker driver members to accept proposals put forward over terms and conditions after six days of talks at conciliation service Acas.

A spokeswoman for the operator says: “Along with the five other employers, Wincanton entered into the talks in good faith, having clearly stated that sector-wide collective bargaining on pay was not to be on the agenda.

“With just one third of the industry represented by the employers involved, we would be unable to impose minimum pay levels on the wider industry.”

She adds that Unite’s concerns over the erosion of standards, security of employment and the newly raised issue of sub-contracting should be directed to the “non-regulated players in the industry” rather than the employers that Unite already concurs have the best terms and conditions for their drivers, and exemplary health, safety and training standards.

In the latest twist in the month-long saga, Unite is to re-ballot tanker drivers at Hoyer after concerns were raised that not all of the union’s members at the firm received ballot papers.

In the initial vote, which has led to six days of talks at Acas over minimum standards in the industry, 59.7% of tanker drivers at Hoyer (which has contracts to deliver for Shell and Esso) voted in favour of strikes on a turnout of 80%.

The re-balloting will take place between 26 April and 8 May.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland says: “It has come to our attention that a number of people did not receive ballot papers. This is a concern because we believe that everyone should have a say.

“We will be seeking a fresh mandate from our members at Hoyer, who,  like all tanker drivers, face a race to the bottom in an increasingly fragmented industry.”

Five other companies involved in the industrial dispute (BP, Turners (Soham), Wincanton, Norbert Dentressangle and DHL) have now agreed to extend the union’s ballot mandate until 5pm Tuesday 24 April.

There had been a threat of a one hour strike tomorrow (Saturday 21 April) and the agreement on the ballot mandate lifts the need to give seven days notice for such action. However, no industrial action will take place until talks begin again.

On Wednesday 18 April,l Unite members at all six firms rejected the proposals put forward – primarily regarding maintaining standards, security of employment and sub-contracting – after six days of talks.