By Maximilian Clarke

Petrol supplies across the UK could be under threat as a rift over pensions between the Wincanton logistics firm and the UK’s foremost trades union, Unite, has prompted the union to schedule 7 days of strikes.

Oil tanker drivers, employed by the road haulage firm Wincanton, are set to walk out in the dispute over attacks on workers' pay, terms and conditions as the company proposes to slash pay by up to 20% and downgrade workers' pensions.

The dispute is likely to significantly disrupt fuel supplies to the UK’s 380 independently-owned Jet petrol station forecourts.

The drivers, who operate out of Immingham, have begun a pre-picked rally to drum up support with media and local residents from this morning (Tuesday 24th)

Unite has been warning for over a year that the draconian cost-down agenda pursued by the employers is destabilising the industry. The union has been pushing for government and the industry to stabilise the distribution of this vital national commodity by introducing minimum standards for oil tanker drivers.

Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “The frustration expressed by Wincanton’s oil tanker drivers can be seen right across the sector. Drivers are under increasing strain, working in a very unstable industry with pressure to deliver fuel round the clock, but where terms and conditions are being slashed.

"It’s time the major players stopped riding roughshod over the drivers. Only minimum standards can ensure that the dangerous job of delivering fuel is undertaken by highly skilled drivers. These drivers criss-cross the country delivering up to 38,000 litres of petrol at any one time, the risks are huge but the thanks they get is an attack on their livelihoods.

“Wincanton and ConocoPhillips hold the key to resolving the dispute. They need to get round the table with us to solve this before this instability spreads."

More than 120 of Wincanton’s oil tanker drivers, operating out of the UK’s three major oil terminals: Immingham in north east Lincolnshire, Kingsbury, near Warwickshire and Stockton on Tees in the north east, will walk out for seven days of action from 05.00am on Tuesday 24 January to 04.59am on Tuesday 31 January 2012.

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