Fuel strike: Ministers stick to walkout plans

The government says it is right to continue with contingency plans for a fuel strike, despite a deal being near.

The Unite union will meet next week to discuss the deal, which was tabled on Friday following six days of talks with officials from six distribution firms.

After the breakthrough at Acas talks, a government spokesman said contingency plans would continue.

But the union's Nick Dennis said that this was not helpful in trying to reach a negotiated settlement.

He added: "The government is not being helpful in the way they've handled this situation."

After the Friday talks led to a possible deal, a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: "We welcome the news that Unite plan to put a deal to their members.

"As we've said all along, we're taking sensible measures to plan for a possible strike and will continue to do so until a final agreement is reached."

Unite represents 2,062 tanker drivers, covering 90% of supplies to forecourts, and is calling for minimum standards of pay, hours, holiday and redundancy.

The dispute concerns safety, pay and working conditions but details of the proposed deal have not been disclosed.

Mr Dennis said the talks had been "positive and constructive" and his members would deliver a verdict on the deal by the end of the week.

Image caption Panic buying led to fuel shortages

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott described it as a "big step forward" but added that the big sticking point appeared to be pay.

He said it was unlikely the talks among union delegates would begin on Monday, because no venue had yet been chosen to host the discussions.

About 60 union representatives from across the country will discuss the deal and have until Friday to accept the proposals or announce a strike.

The threat of a strike had resulted in panic buying at petrol stations, after the government advised motorists to top up their tanks.

Labour's deputy leader and shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, welcomed the prospect of a settlement but blamed ministers for the fuel panic.

"Nobody wants to see a dispute. But I think if, as we hope, the dispute will be settled, everybody will say all the inconvenience and worry that people were put through and the prices going up at the pumps during the fuel panic - that was all caused by the government.

"I think really they've got to recognise that people are finding things difficult at the moment and actually it's not the job of the government to make things worse."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites