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Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Saturday, 14 June 2008 20:32 UK

Fuel strike begins to hit supply

Closed fuel pumps signs
Some petrol stations have run out of fuel

A strike by hundreds of Shell tanker drivers has begun to hit fuel supply in parts of England, Wales and Scotland.

On the second day of the walkout over pay, demand for fuel was up 25% and more than 100 stations closed because of shortages, the government said.

Shell said fewer than 15% of its sites had been affected but warned continued action could have a "significant impact" on supply at forecourts.

Unions said drivers would walk out again if the dispute was not resolved.

Unite joint leader Tony Woodley told the BBC there would be another strike next weekend and, if necessary, a third strike after that.

"This dispute will go on until such times as our members have pay justices, so that our members don't have to keep working long and unsocial hours putting themselves at risk on the motorways of Britain, and at the same time putting the general public at risk."

THE SHELL PAY STRIKE
The striking drivers work for two companies, Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, contracted to Shell
Industrial action began when pay talks broke down this week
The companies say unions rejected a pay offer taking the drivers' average salary to 41,500 by January 2009
But the Unite union says the offer would have increased salaries from just under 32,000 to 36,000
The drivers are planning a second four-day stoppage next week if the dispute is not settled

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform confirmed demand for fuel at forecourts had gone up by 25% between Friday and Saturday lunchtimes.

He said supply was tightest in south-west and north-west England and central Scotland.

At noon on Saturday, some 112 out of 8,900 petrol stations - just over 1% - had been forced to close, he added.

A spokeswoman for Shell said by late Saturday afternoon, fewer than 15% of the company's sites had experienced disruption but added that the four-day pay strikes could have a "significant impact".

"Sales remain high but are not at extreme levels, and there are still few signs of panic buying," she said.

"As the strike continues, it is inevitable that in time, there will be a significant impact on our petrol stations."

The company added that 99% of all petrol stations across the UK - not just those run by Shell - remained unaffected by the strike.

Diesel problems

The Scottish government said figures showed fewer than 1% of stations north of the border had run dry.

A number of petrol stations in the Strathspey area, along the A9, reported they had run out of diesel.

In particular, garages in Aviemore and Newtonmore ran out and one site has started rationing. One service station manager in Ayr also reported he had run out of diesel.

Tanker drivers on the picket line
On the picket line: Drivers are looking for higher pay

A number of sites in Glasgow reported that trade was brisk, but so far shortages were limited.

A handful of petrol stations in Wales also ran out of fuel, but many stations in the south Wales area said they were currently well stocked.

Members of the public have e-mailed the BBC News website to report fuel queues and some stations running out, in areas including Leicester, Cambridge, the Wirral, and Aberdare, South Wales.

There were also shortages reported in St Austell, Cornwall, Stoke-on-Trent, Bedford, Carlisle and Bath.

Drivers have been urged not to panic-buy and, although major retailers reported increased demand, they said they were working to maintain supply:

  • Tesco said some drivers had changed their normal buying habits, emptying pumps faster than it could fill them. However, "outstocks" had been short-lived, it added.
  • Morrisons said its stations had seen high demand during the past week and additional deliveries were being made to their forecourts.
  • BP said while sales were high on Friday, Saturday sales were the same as on a normal Saturday.
  • Esso said it was doing all that it could to maximise supplies to its stations. It asked motorists to stick to normal buying patterns.

Nick Vandervell, from the UK Petroleum Industry Association which represents Shell and the other major petrol suppliers, told BBC Five Live that some service stations had run out of fuel, but the situation was patchy.

The scene at Kingsbury oil depot

"We have had reports that locally there are some problems, but essentially what our members' companies will be doing is working over the weekend to try and make sure that those sites are re-supplied and in some cases that may well involve re-supply from terminals or depots where there isn't picketing action."

But Ray Holloway, of the Petrol Retailers' Association, told the BBC the situation was under control.

"Outside of Merseyside, mid-Berkshire and some places on the south coast and south-west of England, generally speaking it's actually been busy but not anywhere near what we'll call panic buying," he said.

During a day of action over fuel, go-slow protests also took place on the M6, M56 and in the New Forest.

Lorry drivers and farmers were among those taking part in the protests over the rising cost of fuel.

Pay offer

Shell UK boss James Smith on the strike

Shell runs one in 10 of the country's fuel stations, but industry sources suggest its market share could be up to 17%.

The striking drivers work for two companies, Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, contracted to Shell.

Industrial action began when pay talks broke down earlier this week, with the companies saying unions rejected a pay offer taking the drivers' average salary to 41,500 by January 2009.

But the Unite union says the offer would have increased salaries from just under 32,000 to 36,000.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged both sides of the dispute to resume negotiations, adding that contingency plans were in place to minimise the effects of the walkout.


SEE ALSO
Talks to avert tanker strike fail
11 Jun 08 |  Business
Drivers warned against fuel panic
10 Jun 08 |  Business
Talks over Shell driver pay fail
05 Jun 08 |  Business
Rising prices boost Shell and BP
29 Apr 08 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Sunday Mirror Tanker drivers plan another strike as petrol pumps run dry - 22 mins ago
CNN Strikes spread across globe - 48 mins ago
Mirror Tanker drivers plan another strike as petrol pumps run dry - 1 hr ago
Andover Advertiser Motorists face more fuel disruption - 1 hr ago
The Scotsman Motorists face more fuel disruption - 1 hr ago



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