Drivers who work on a contact for Shell Oil were offered a 14% pay increase over two years after four days of strike action. The increase may be worth 9% in the first year and 5% in the second, taking average annual earnings to £41,750 — it’s not clear because contracts are due to be renewed in a year.
The sucessful strike was well supported with drivers from other companies, like BP, who are also Unite members refusing to cross picket lines and even the independent drivers who aren’t in the union supported the strike.
Workers on the picket line told Solidarity the dispute has been building up for years. In 1995 the tier one drivers, who were earning £32,000 and had a final salary pension, were all paid off. After that drivers were employed on tier two with new contracts, on £17,500 pay and no set pension. They are currently earning £31,800 for a 45 hour week. They were asking for a flat rate one year deal of £36,000 to get parity with other workers in the industry, a one year settlement because the contract will have to be renegotiated.
The contracters Hoyer and Sucklings said they couldn’t afford to offer a better deal but it is clear that is Shell who determines the wage level and they can easily afford to fund the claim out of their profits.
The government’s response was typical? How dare these workers, who aren’t low paid, ask for an above inflation pay increase?
This argument will continue to be used to put pressure on public sector workers not to strike for better pay. Pay increases do not cause inflation or economic crisis. The crisies of capitalism are due to the nature of producing for profit.