Unite officials and fuel industry bosses have negotiated a deal to extend the legal validity of a drivers’ strike ballot until Friday 20 April as talks continue.
Peter Harwood, “Chief Conciliator” at arbitration service ACAS, has told the press that “the intention is that no industrial action will be called in that period”. The period in which Unite would have had to announce industrial action in order to keep the ballot live was due to expire at 4pm on Monday 16 April.
Under the new agreement, Unite could call a strike any time from 21 April to 27 April (they are required to give at least seven days notice).
Drivers are fighting to impose minimum standards on safety, pay, terms and conditions across an industry fragmented by sub-contracting and outsourcing. Haulage and fuel company bosses have scoffed at their demands, claiming that they are equivalent to asking Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda to guarantee across-the-board minimum conditions for their check-out staff (an eminently sensible demand that the labour movement should fight for when it becomes better-organised in the supermarket retail sector).
Representatives of the management of six of the seven companies involved in the dispute have attended talks.