The tanker driver’s union, Unite, and the fuel distribution industry are going to meet later this week to try and resolve their dispute, and avoid a tanker drivers’ strike.
The Unite general secretary, Diana Holland, says:
This industry used to be one run by the oil companies alone. Over the years it’s been contracted out to other companies and the conditions and the terms were kept pretty solidly at the beginning. But over the years they have become eroded and eroded.
And they are threatening a strike.
I wonder whom they will be striking at? After all, there is not one single distribution company. Ms Holland herself was basically complaining about the fragmentation of the industry. And she was saying that terms and conditions vary by employer.
According to the law, as I understand it, a Union cannot strike at one company because of a dispute with another. That is called “secondary action” and is illegal. As far as I can see, then, a national tanker drivers’ strike would be illegal, unless the Union claimed to be in dispute with all the employers at once – which would be hard since their terms all vary.
The Union can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a national strike to complain about the fact that terms and conditions vary across employers!
If they were really concerned about members’ terms and conditions, they could, of course, threaten those employers who are offering worse terms or conditions with a strike against those employers alone. That could be effective in driving up terms and conditions in the industry. But instead they are threatening a national strike that is of questionable legality.
The conclusion has to be that Unite have no interest in improving their members’ terms and conditions. They are more interested in posturing.
The Government’s response, of course, was crass in the extreme. William Hague is still attempting to defend their now-abandoned advice to motorists to stockpile fuel:
The country is in a better state of preparedness now than it was a week ago for the eventuality of a tanker strike.
He is fooling nobody.
The whole crisis was engineered by a grandstanding trade union, and a foolish Government that played into their hands.