Employers should start planning now for a proposed strike by fuel tanker drivers that would inevitably cause “large-scale disruption”, a lawyer has advised.
More than 2,000 drivers at seven distribution depots across the UK took part in a ballot yesterday over taking industrial action for the first time in more than 10 years.
According to the Unite
union, five of the seven depots voted in favour of walking out in a row over terms and conditions and safety. Of those five, 69% of workers voted for strike action, on an average turnout of 77.7%.
A statement from Unite said: “Tanker drivers work in an increasingly fragmented and pressurised industry, where corners are being cut on safety and training in a bid to squeeze profits and win contracts.”
Drivers also faced growing job insecurity as a result of a flourishing “contract ‘merry-go-round’ and a ‘beat the clock’ culture”, which was forcing them to meet ever shorter delivery deadlines, while pension offerings were getting worse, it added.
The government is holding a meeting with fuel delivery companies and supermarkets to plan how to cope with any resultant strike, which could lead to the closure of more than 8,000 petrol stations. Army drivers are already being trained to deliver fuel to the petrol stations if a walk-out takes place.
Nonetheless, Jonathan Exten-Wright, employment partner at law firm, DLA Piper
, pointed out that industrial action could still have a “widespread impact” on business.
“Workers could face large-scale disruption to travel, forcing them to take time off work, particularly if they rely on a car or public road transport to get into work,” he said.
In case the government’s contingency plan of using the army failed to be enough, employers should consider whether they needed to implement business interruption procedures such as flexible or home working for at least some staff.
“Employers should check what contracts and insurance permit and look at whether or not they propose to pay those who cannot make it to work. Early planning now should help employers to keep business open as normal,” Exten-Wright said.