'Constructive' fuel talks adjourned

Talks aimed at averting a strike by fuel tanker drivers have been adjourned and will resume after Easter after "constructive" discussions.

Leaders of the Unite union have spent the past two days meeting officials from six distribution firms to try to resolve a dispute over terms and conditions and health and safety.

Acas chief conciliator Peter Harwood said: "After 24 hours of discussions over two days between Unite and the six fuel distribution contractors, talks adjourned at 10pm this evening with the parties agreeing to meet again with Acas next Tuesday.

"The discussions have been constructive with the parties positively engaged and committed to the process. We are pleased that they have agreed to continue their discussions with Acas next week.

"Of course, everyone will be respecting the confidentiality of the process. Therefore, no further comment will be made by any of the parties involved."

The dispute over terms and conditions and health and safety has been brewing for more than a year but flared up last month when Unite announced that workers in five firms had voted to strike.

The Government advised motorists to top up with fuel, leading to chaotic scenes at garages across the country as people queued for petrol.

There was much criticism of the way the Government handled the prospect of a strike and Labour led calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude for advising motorists earlier to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.

Unite has previously announced it would not strike over Easter following the panic buying which led to long queues at garages last week. The Government was criticised for urging motorists to fill up their cars with petrol even though no strikes had been called.

The union will have to give seven days notice of any industrial action.

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