Union rules out Easter fuel strikes

Queueing traffic at the pumps in Tesco, Skegness at 8.45am on Thursday morning.
Queueing traffic at the pumps in Tesco, Skegness at 8.45am on Thursday morning.

A UNION representing tanker drivers has ruled out the threatened Easter strike action which sparked panic buying and fuel shortages at local filling stations.

Unite announced today (Friday) that it would be instead focusing on talks to ensure minimum standards in the fuel distribution industry, which it claims has become ‘increasingly fragmented and unstable’.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through ACAS.

“We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter, should those talks break down.”

With fears of strike action prompting panic buying throughout the local area, MP for Boston and Skegness Mark Simmonds has urged his constituents to remain calm.

“People should not panic buy and they certainly should not panic buy petrol,” he said.

Mr Simmonds’ cautious comments differ greatly from those made earlier in the week by his Conservative colleague Francis Maude whose inflammatory statement urging motorists to stock up on fuel has been widely condemned for instigating the panic buying which has since emerged.

Although Unite stressed that the issue was not a ‘political dispute’ Ms Holland felt ‘the government’s recent rhetoric will not help us achieve a negotiated settlement’.

And Skegness Deputy Mayor Coun Mark Anderson has also accused the government of inflaming the situation, fearing it could harm the town’s visitor economy over one of its busiest weekends.

He said: “I cannot believe that when we are approaching the Easter holiday, any government would say such stupid things as to encourage people to panic buy petrol.

“We are now coming up to one of the busiest weekend when businesses are opening for the summer season and now, due to petrol shortages, visitors from all over the UK won’t be able to get to the coast.

“I was queuing for 45 minutes to get served yesterday evening and I could feel the sense of anger growing among motorists.”

Despite several filling stations running dry as a result of the increased demand, Lincolnshire Police has said the situation locally, has not caused so many problems as elsewhere in the county and nationwide.

A spokesperson said: “We have had several calls from concerned motorists in Lincoln and Louth but nothing in the Skegness area.

“Although there have been queues, in most cases these have been manageable, and people have been patient and considerate, with no reports of violence or road rage.”

To avoid further disruption Lincolnshire Police has asked for people to ‘use their common sense and do not join fuel station queues that are encroaching onto the highways as they may become a potential hazard.’