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Petrol: 'Don't waste a drop', drivers warned as four-day fuel strike starts to hit the pumps

 
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06/13/2008 11:48 AM
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Petrol: 'Don't waste a drop', drivers warned as four-day fuel strike starts to hit the pumps
Motorists were warned not to 'waste a drop of fuel' today as petrol stations began to run dry after tanker drivers started a four-day strike.

Hundreds of union members seeking a pay rise from Shell picketed petrol terminals as many others also turned back from refineries in solidarity.

The Shell drivers have refused an improved pay offer of 7.3 per cent backdated to January, which would take average earnings to more than £39,000.

President of the AA, Edmund King, warned drivers today to do everything possible to limit their fuel use.

He said: 'Drivers should cut out short journeys, stick to speed limits and take off roof-racks to save fuel. But above all do not queue up at fuel stations. Don't waste a drop.'

Shell only runs one in 10 petrol stations across the country and the Government insists there will be enough fuel to last the strike.

But motorists today appeared determined to defy the official advice against panic-buying and flocked to petrol stations to fill up.

At least one garage in London has already run dry and others across the UK were following suit after reporting significantly higher business.


Retailers and the Government called for 'restraint' and said there was plenty of fuel to go around.


The Petrol Retailers Association said there was no lack of fuel as long as motorists 'bought normally'.


Stand-still: Tankers lined up in the car-park of Coryton Refinery Depot in Essex


Tanker drivers for Shell walked out at 6am for four days of industrial action after last-minute talks to resolve their pay dispute failed.


Pickets at terminals around the country were manned by hundreds of trade union members, with police on guard in case of any violence.

Union leaders warned fuel would start to run out 'almost immediately' and all Shell's forecourts would be affected within 24 hours.

The first impact was felt at the Shell garage in Bayswater Road.Its last delivery was yesterday morning, but a rush of customers through the evening and the early morning had emptied supplies.


Duty manager A Vikmaesan said Shell head office had made no provisions for extra deliveries in advance of the strike and drivers arrived this morning to find signs telling them there was no fuel for sale.



Standing together: Tanker drivers on the picket line outside Stanlow Oil Refinery in Cheshire today. The strike is set to last until Tuesday morning.



Break-down: Industrial action started at 6am after talks between the Unite union and the firms that deliver fuel to Shell garages collapsed yesterday

David Lewes, 57, a corporate lawyer from Notting Hill, said: 'I do have sympathy for the staff who are striking. But I'm in a rush to get to a meeting and now I am going to have to drive round looking for another petrol station.'

Ramad Qaubi 38, a chauffeur from Acton, said: 'I'm on my way to pick up a client and I didn't know there was going to be a strike on. I don't know what they're striking about but it's very bad for drivers like me who are on the road all day.'

AA patrolman Jack Sekhon said he expected emergency call-outs to increase dramatically today with drivers running out of petrol on the road.


Mr Sekhon, 31, said all AA vans were carrying extra fuel, adding: 'The stations outside London had already run out this morning. We'll be very busy today.


'This always happens because people try to risk it and drive that little bit further and end up running out.'



Panic-buying: Drivers queuing up at a service station in Boroughbridge, northern England, today to stock up in case petrol supplies run dry

Gordon Brown, who has refused to rule out calling in the Army to keep fuel flowing, said everything was being done to reduce the impact of the strike on the public.


He said: 'It is extremely disappointing that the talks between the employers and the unions have ended without resolution.


'I can say that we have been working very closely with the industry to put in place a contingency plan to reduce, as far as possible, and minimise disruption to the public - but we would strongly urge the parties of this dispute to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.'

Business Secretary John Hutton added: 'We have been working closely with industry to put in place detailed contingency plans to reduce as far as possible the disruption for the driving public.'

Mr King urged motorists only to fill up their cars as usual. 'It is a four-day strike and garages usually hold four days' supply of fuel,' he said.


'Added to that, the strike only affects one out of every 10 forecourts, so there will be plenty of others to choose from.'




Taking a stand: Picketers watch a tanker driver leave the Kingsbury fuel depot near Birmingham

Shell supplies just one in 10 of all petrol stations across the UK but because other drivers are already showing their support, it could develop into an all-out crisis.


Drivers at the Kingsbury oil depot in Warwickshire today clapped as a BP tanker pulled up to say he would not be crossing the picket line.

Driver Andy Wigley: 'What's nice is the solidarity. Everyone is in the same boat. All these companies have suppressed our wages for many years.'


John Mears, the shop steward for Unite, added: 'We're only picketing our own vehicles. However the Totals, the Jets, the Texacos (tankers) have not moved either this morning in support for us.'

Members of the public driving past the depot also honked their horns in support for the picketing drivers.

Mr Mears said: 'We deeply regret that the public will be inconvenienced but we don't accept responsibility for it.

'We believe this lies at the hand of Shell who have continually refused to help, by not intervening. All we are trying to do is bring drivers' rates of pay up to the right rates of pay.'

There were similar scenes at Stanlow depot in Merseyside, where independent drivers turned away in support of picketers holding up placards declaring: 'Shell profits gush' and 'Drivers' pay trickles'.

At Grangemouth refinery in Scotland, more banners read 'Shell drivers over a barrel' and 'Shell, gallons of greed'.


Tony Trench, a Unite official said: 'We'll have a picket present for the full four days. We're hopeful that this greedy company have enough sense to settle with us and make a reasonable offer. All we are asking for is for a reasonable slice of the cake.'

Officials from the Unite union and managers from two firms which deliver fuel to Shell garages held more than nine hours of talks yesterday to try to break the deadlocked dispute, following 10 hours of negotiations on Wednesday.


But Unite announced last night that the talks had broken down and said the action would go ahead as planned.

Tony Woodley, the joint leader of Unite who was at the strike at Stanlow today, said he was 'bitterly disappointed' the extensive talks had not resolved the dispute.


'This should have been solved six months ago. Shell outsourced my members' jobs years ago to cut costs and have been very successful at the workers' expense,' he said.


'Despite what management is saying our members are on a basic wage of £31,800 and if they had remained working for Shell that would now be £46,000. What we are asking for is a basic wage of £36,000.

'Hoyer and Suckling don't have the money in the contract to meet our claim because the greedy oil company is not prepared to put their hands in their pocket.

'This is corporate greed which has now caught up with them after they have battered my members' terms and conditions.'

He added that he was not surprised tanker drivers from other companies had refused to cross picket lines.

'We always expected that in a very close-knit community tanker drivers would support each other. Shell makes profits of more than £1.5billion a month and has a responsibility to the general public,' he said.

'It would cost just £1million to solve this dispute - money they have already saved from the workers' pension scheme alone.'


The pay row erupted after the union claimed workers are paid the same now as in 1992 - just under £32,000 a year.


Hoyer and Suckling Transport, the two firms contracted by Shell to deliver fuel, said they had put two offers to the union yesterday - an increase for this year of 7.3 per cent backdated to January, which would take average earnings to more than £39,000, with a further six per cent increase from next January, which would take earnings to around £41,500.


The firms said they asked the union to suspend the strike and put the offers to a ballot but accused Unite of refusing.


A spokesman for Shell said: 'As a result of Unite's strike, regrettably it is inevitable there will be a significant impact on our petrol stations.

'Our primary concern is for motorists who may be inconvenienced as a result of the industrial action.'









WHY PM SAID DON'T PANIC

Gordon Brown's 'don't panic' message to motorists this week was designed to make them do the exact opposite, according to Government insiders.

Critics said the message smacked of dithering Corporal Jones in TV's Dad's Army.

But Whitehall sources say it was actually a piece of 'reverse-psychology'.

Ministers calculated that the message would spur panicbuyers into stocking up with enough fuel to ride out the strike.

The oil industry says it did just that - boosting sales at the pumps by 30 per cent.

One Government insider said: 'We'd rather people started filling their tanks now, giving time for the forecourts to restock before the strike takes hold, than over the weekend.'




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Anonymous Coward
User ID: 443487
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06/13/2008 06:51 PM
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Re: Petrol: 'Don't waste a drop', drivers warned as four-day fuel strike starts to hit the pumps
Human behavior is so predictable. I'm almost ashamed to be a member of this race.
NoiD
User ID: 363112
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06/13/2008 06:58 PM
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Re: Petrol: 'Don't waste a drop', drivers warned as four-day fuel strike starts to hit the pumps
Human behavior is so predictable. I'm almost ashamed to be a member of this race.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 443487


Indeed, this is exactly why there will be no foreseeable alien contact/ufo disclosure





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