Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 13:07 UK

Tanker drivers picket oil depot

Picketers stand infront of a Suckling Transport HGV
Picketers gather at Grangemouth oil refinery on the first day of strike action

Striking tanker drivers have been picketing Scotland's main fuel depot at Grangemouth in a row over pay.

The UK-wide action by 600 Shell delivery drivers, started at 0600 BST and will continue until Tuesday. About 15 pickets are gathered at Grangemouth.

By 1300 BST, only two tankers had left the depot with fuel for petrol station forecourts. Many drivers have refused to cross the picket line.

Depots in Aberdeen and Inverness have also been picketed.

The company and union have confirmed that if there is no resolution to their dispute, another four-day stoppage will take place next weekend.

Shell, which operates about one in every 10 forecourts in the UK, warned the strike could result in some of its petrol stations running dry.

Motorists have been urged not to panic buy.

The action at Grangemouth has led to a small police presence at the site.

The majority of drivers at the depot work for BP and a number of them left the refinery before the strike began.

Fuel from the site is distributed right across Scotland, although there are a handful of minor distribution points such as Aberdeen and Inverness.

Five drivers began picketing outside the BP and Shell oil terminal at Aberdeen Harbour at about 0930 BST.

'Greedy company'

After five minutes, a driver from Inverness-based Highland Fuels turned away after meeting protesters at the gate.

The group was joined by Tommy Campbell, of the T&G section of Unite, who said the protest at the small terminal was likely to last several hours.

Oil tanker drivers who are contracted to Shell are striking in a bid to increase their salaries.

The Unite trade union is calling for a minimum wage of 36,000 a year, about 2,000 more than drivers are currently paid.

The workers' employer, Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, have claimed their latest offer would take wages to 41,000.

Strikers are hoping drivers from other distribution firms will not cross the picket lines to fill up on fuel.

Tony Trench, a Unite official at Grangemouth, said management at the site had been told by police to leave the picket line.

He said: "We've only had one tanker going through. Two of the managers stood among the pickets and were encouraging them in.

"We told the police about it and the police asked the managers to leave the line."

He added: "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."

Aberdeen picketers
Picketers have gathered at the BP and Shell oil terminal at Aberdeen Harbour

A spokesman for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) said the government was working with the wider oil industry to limit disruption on business and the public.

He added: "As a contingency, and on the advice of the fuel industry itself, we sanctioned the fuel industry to prepare for a jointly-managed approach to resolving distribution and logistical challenges.

"This allows fuel companies and the government to share information with each other about stock levels, to give a better picture of the situation across the country and to target supplies that are transportable to the areas of most need.

"This was recently used to good effect in Scotland during the Grangemouth dispute.

"Emergency powers/measures have not been put in place. Our response will remain proportionate to the situation."

The UK Petrol Industry Association (UKPIA), which represents oil refiners, maintained that stocks at forecourts across the UK were at normal levels and most garages would have about four days of supplies.

The picket at Grangemouth comes just months after a 48-hour strike over pensions resulted in the refinery being shut down.

The industrial action by 1,250 workers at the plant in April was the first at any refinery in the UK for 73 years, and also led to the closure of the Forties North Sea oil pipeline.

Talks to avert tanker strike fail
11 Jun 08 |  Business
Fuel protesters arrive in capital
10 Jun 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Oil hike sparks 'serious concern'
07 Jun 08 |  Business

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