Stanlow drivers’ ballot puts fuel deliveries at risk

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Fuel tanker drivers employed by Hoyer Petrolog UK and members of the Unite union are balloting for industrial action in a dispute over job cuts and attacks on conditions, said the union today (October 6).

The company wants to make six of the 20-strong team at the Stanlow refinery redundant following a reduction in requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers began balloting last Friday (October 2) and the ballot will close this Friday (October 9).

If the drivers vote in favour of industrial action strikes could begin later this month, which Unite says could create serious disruption to fuel deliveries.

The company delivers to many petrol stations and supermarkets and also delivers aviation fuel to airports.

Unite said Hoyer initially proposed six alternative roles, but it argued those positions included inferior terms and conditions, notably a compulsory lay-off clause, which would allow the company to lay workers off without pay and without warning.

The lay-off clauses were opposed by Unite, which resulted in Hoyer withdrawing the jobs and pushing ahead with redundancies.

Unite said it has entered into detailed and lengthy negotiations with the company in a bid to avoid job losses and has proposed costed alternatives. However it said these have been rejected by Hoyer and talks have broken down.

Unite regional officer, Steve Gerarrd, said: “Hoyer is drinking in the last chance saloon if it is serious about avoiding highly disruptive industrial action.

“Unite has proposed detailed alternatives to avoid job losses but these have been rejected by Hoyer’s local management.

“If industrial action is taken it will be absolutely as a last resort, but it has to be understood this will have a huge impact on fuel deliveries across a large chunk of England.

“It is imperative that Hoyer returns to the negotiating table and enters into meaningful negotiations to save jobs and avoid the need for industrial action and the inevitable disruption this will cause.”

In response, a Hoyer spokesperson said: “The decision to reduce this highly skilled workforce has not been taken lightly.

“However, these redundancies are a result of a dramatic reduction in our retail and aviation fuel volumes over the past six months. During the COVID-19 crisis the company’s aviation volumes dropped to just five per cent of normal levels, more recently settling at around 40%.

“Furthermore, our retail fuel volumes dropped to just 30% of normal levels, more recently settling at around 85%. The further tightening of lockdown restrictions will in no way improve these current volumes whilst it is clear we will not return to ‘normal’ for at least the next 12 months, if at all.”

The company said it offered drivers a ‘no redundancies for 12 months’ guarantee during the Summer, subject to them agreeing to a number of mitigating measures.

The spokesperson said: “Our drivers collectively decided that this was not an offer they wished to take up. Alternatives for redeployment have also disappeared following increasing uncertainty regarding future volumes.

“We remain committed to working with Unite The Union to ensure that all viable jobs can be secured and we look forward to receiving their costed alternative proposals.

“In the meantime, we are finalising our contingency plans to ensure any unwanted industrial action will not impact our valued customers or consumers.”