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The BBC's Stephen Evans
"The allegation is that the protesters were helped, or rather not hindered by the oil companies"
 real 56k

Bill Morris, General Secretary TGWU
"My union has a number of unanswered questions"
 real 28k

Monday, 18 September, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Union wants inquiry into fuel protests
Tanker being watched by policeman
The TGWU has queried the role of police and oil companies
Britain's largest trade union has called for a public inquiry to examine whether there was collusion between the oil companies and protesters during last week's fuel crisis.

The Transport and General Workers' Union says it has evidence of a "permissive arrangement" whereby demonstrators were allowed to park their vehicles on the property of oil companies before going outside to join the picket line.

The union is drawing up a dossier which it will send to the prime minister raising a number of complaints about the level of security at refineries and questioning why injunctions were not taken out against the protesters.

As a government task force met to discuss how to prevent a repeat of the blockades, the TGWU's General Secretary, Bill Morris, said an inquiry would be preferable to "knee-jerk" legislation which he feared would curb legitimate industrial action in the future.

'Intimidation'

Mr Morris told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "At one refinery in Fawley near Southampton there were cars and tractors parked overnight in a nearby car park and for the first time in living memory, people were able to gain access to that refinery without any real security checks,"

He also said the TGWU had heard "evidence of concerns about intimidation when companies were saying to drivers 'you needn't go out'".

Bill Morris, General Secretary of the TGWU
Bill Morris: "Government should not rush to implement new laws"
Later the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said it was "incontrovertible that tanker drivers did feel intimidated".

The TGWU dossier asks why drivers were not given police escorts when many said they would continue working normally if safety was guaranteed.

It also says that police seemed to take no action against protesters shouting threats to drivers.

Mr Morris said: "My members are keen to know why the police failed to use their considerable public order powers to restore safety to the roads."

The union said it wanted to know why oil companies failed to take out injunctions over the blockades and why police failed to challenge "mass invasions" of motorcyclists and taxi drivers.

"There should be a public inquiry into these events rather than a knee-jerk response," Mr Morris said.

"The government should investigate why the existing legislation was not effective before they rush to implement new laws that would impinge on the rights of union members to take legitimate lawful action."

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15 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Task force to tackle protests threat
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