Pumps run dry as more action looms

A BITTER dispute over fuel tanker drivers' pay was continuing to wreak havoc at the pumps today with several Suffolk petrol stations affected.

Josh Warwick

A BITTER dispute over fuel tanker drivers' pay was continuing to wreak havoc at the pumps today with several Suffolk petrol stations affected.

A four-day drivers' strike finished this morning but an agreement is yet to be reached between union leaders and two haulage companies which deliver fuel to Shell.

Should negotiations fail to reach a successful conclusion, more industrial action could take place later this week.

The haulage companies - Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport - said unions had rejected a pay offer which would have taken the drivers' average salary to £41,500 by January 2009.

However, the Unite union says that excluding overtime, the offer would have increased salaries from just under £32,000 to £36,000.

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Today, all but one of the Shell stations in and around Ipswich were selling limited supplies, with most only offering the more expensive V Power fuel.

Only the station in Woodbridge's Grove Road was operating as usual.

Meanwhile, the Shell garage in Norwich Road, Ipswich, had entirely run out of fuel.

Talks aimed at resolving the pay dispute have been adjourned and will resume later this week.

Leaders of the Unite union and managers from the two haulage companies met for more than three hours at a secret location in a bid to break the deadlock.

A joint statement read: “The meeting was helpful and both sides have agreed to adjourn to reflect on today's discussions.”

The number of garages running out of fuel was estimated to be seven per cent of the 8,900 sites across the UK.

The AA claimed its patrol staff had reported widespread shortages and queuing at the pumps.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said: “Although the strike has inconvenienced motorists, the public has shown commendable common sense and restraint, which has minimised its harmful impact.”

Shell has said around 284 of its 582 garages have suffered shortages of both its main fuel grades today because of the continuing strike.

Around 120 had no fuel at all in stock, accounting for about a fifth of Shell's total sites.

A company spokesman said: “We understand the inconvenience this has caused to our customers and thank them for their continued patience.”

- Do you support the tanker drivers' battle for better pay? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk