Pickets aim to intensify strike action by halting other tankersTanker drivers picketed fuel depots from 6am on Friday in an attempt to disrupt supplies to all filling stations – even though their dispute involves only Shell. The strikers have camped outside terminals which supply the 892 Shell garages across the UK.
But these sites also supply other petrol retailers. BBC Radio 4 reported that drivers not directly involved in the dispute had turned away with empty tanks ‘in sympathy’, although it was also reported that BP and other companies had arrived early to fill up before the strike began.
Strikers are out in force at depots in Stanlow, Cheshire, Avonmouth, Plymouth, Pembroke, Cardiff, Kingsbury, Basildon, Grangemouth, Aberdeen, Inverness, Jarrow and Luton Airport.
Shell, which operates a tenth of the UK’s petrol stations, has admitted that the impact would be significant. But the UK Petrol Industry Association (UKPIA), which represents the fuel companies, said stocks at filling stations were normal, meaning that most had four-days’ worth of petrol and diesel.
While figures issued earlier this month showed demand had dropped by 20% generally, thought to be largely due to dearer pump prices. But sales this week have jumped by 30%, indicating that motorists had stocked up.
But UKPIA said garages had coped and most motorists had taken a sensible approach. This week, motors.co.uk has polled site users to see if they planned to fill up in case of shortages. Only a minority said they would.
The strike came after talks ended on Thursday with unions and supply companies unable to agree a pay deal. The drivers, who earn £36,500 on average, have demanded a 13.2% increase. Management have offered around 7% now, with a further rise promised in January.
The Government has already acted to ease shortages by allowing rival fuel companies to share information, to help maintain supplies throughout the UK. If the dispute continues and begins to affect supplies, the government has the power to limit the amount motorists buy. It can also give emergency services and essential users priority access to supplies.