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Fuel tanker drivers vote for walkout

MOTORISTS will face disruption this weekend as striking tanker drivers halt the delivery of petrol to BP forecourts across Scotland.

Tanker drivers at the Grangemouth oil refinery voted for a walkout beginning at 4am on Friday and ending at 8am on Monday in a dispute over cuts to their pay and pensions.

The workers, employed by BP, also voted for a continuous ban on overtime from 8.01am on Monday.

Unite, the union representing the workers, warned industrial action would "severely impact" aviation supplies and deliveries to BP forecourts across Scotland and the north-east of England.

It said 90% of the 42 tanker drivers balloted voted for strike action. They are angry at changes to their pension rights and the loss of a company share scheme as a result of the imminent aviation contract transfer from BP to another firm.

Although legislation protects employees' pay and conditions if they are transferred by their employer to a new company, their pensions are not protected.

The changes come after BP posted £7.6 billion in profits.

Unite regional industrial officer Tony Trench said: "It's an outrage that BP, a multinational giant which earns billions every year, is exploiting the UK's weak employment laws to effectively swindle workers out of their retirement savings and future earnings.

"Last year, BP chief executive Bob Dudley was awarded a bonus of £2.6 million. This year, one-third of workers on the aviation contract at Grangemouth could lose up to £13,000 a year from their pension on retirement and two-thirds upwards of £1400 a year from their basic earnings due to the loss of the BP share-match scheme.

"It's the same old story of fat-cat executives dictating a race to the bottom on workers' terms and conditions while their own snouts are stuck firmly in the trough. There is still time to avoid a strike – one that will cause significant disruptions to Scotland's transport infrastructure – if BP comes to its senses and protects the workers ahead of their transfer."

It comes less than a year after a strike by tanker drivers was narrowly averted after they voted narrowly to accept a peace deal aimed at ending a long-running row over terms and conditions.

Unite said its members working for seven distribution firms backed the deal by 51% overall, although drivers in four of the companies voted to reject it.

In April 2008, Unite called the first strike at an oil refinery for 73 years at Grangemouth in a protest over pension pay.

More than 1000 staged a walkout in protest at plans by plant owner Ineos to close the final salary pension scheme to new entrants and reduce provision for existing scheme members.

Motorists were warned against panic buying at petrol forecourts amid fears that supplies could run dry.

Meanwhile, drivers have been on the receiving end of more rising petrol prices.

Last month, the AA accused retailers of failing to fully pass on a 2p fall in diesel wholesale costs in November and December that, with VAT, were worth 2.5p at the pump.

Fuel retailers have suggested rising prices at the pumps are due to speculation by traders in the wholesale market.

A spokesman for BP said it believed the latest strike would cause limited disruption because weekends were the quietest time for deliveries.

He added: "Our priority remains the safe delivery of fuel products to all our customers.

"We continue to work to minimise any potential disruption the industrial action planned for this weekend at Grangemouth could cause."

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, called on the Scottish Government to try to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.

"Once again it looks like the ordinary Scottish driver is being caught up in a battle between tanker drivers and their employers," he said. "There is no need for anyone to panic. Overbuying just generates more profits for the oil companies and problems for ordinary people."

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