Unite BP striker tells UnionNews: “We’ll stay as long as we have to”

by - 22nd February 2013, 8.21 GMT

grangemoutn-unite-flag-Dozens of fuel tanker drivers have begun a 76-hour strike, in action that could threaten fuel supplies to all of Scotland’s airports and scores of petrol forecourts north of the border and in the North East of England.

Unite says 90% of the drivers – based at the Grangemouth refinery near Falkirk – voted for industrial action in the dispute over pensions and pay.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty, who joined pickets this morning, told UnionNews: “There is nothing moving this morning. Normally we would have seen about two million litres of fuel going out by this time. This has not happened.

“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.”

Officials say BP – which posted profits worth more than £7.6bn in 2012 – is exploiting employment legislation to ‘swindle’ workers out of their retirement savings.

More than 40 tanker drivers are involved in the dispute, which arises out of the transfer of a key fuel transport contract from BP to a new employer, DHL. One Unite rep said: “We’re absolutely solid and we’ll stay out as long as we have to. It’s too important for us.”

Unite says the drivers stand to lose more than £1,400 a year in pay which was tied to a BP share purchase scheme when they begin work under the new contract and as much as £100,000 from the value of their pension.

Last winter, Unite tanker drivers working for Wincanton and supplying forecourts across much of east and central England took more than 2 weeks of strike action in a dispute over pay, pensions and training.

This was followed by the 3-month dispute with the UK’s 6 major fuel distribution companies.

Despite a substantial vote in favour of industrial action and a wave of panic buying triggered by a succession of government statements, the dispute was finally settled in May 2012 without a strike.

The Grangemouth drivers intend to begin a work-to-rule immediately after the strike ends on Monday morning.

A second four-day strike is due to begin on 28 February if there is no settlement in the dispute.