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article imageU.K. soldiers training to deliver fuel if tanker drivers strike

By Arthur Weinreb     Mar 26, 2012 in World
The government will train soldiers to drive petrol tanker trucks in case the unionized drivers vote to take strike action. The government is hoping to avoid gas shortages that occurred in 2000 after protests prevented the delivery of fuel.
Approximately 2,000 members of Unite the Union are voting to decide whether to go on strike. As reported by The Press Association, members of the union deliver petrol to about 90% of gas stations in the U.K. Unite predicts that a strike would see the closure of approximately 7,900 stations throughout the U.K.
According to Unite, the possible job action is not about money. Unite's campaign is called "Enough is Enough" and the union complains employers have been eroding the terms and conditions of the drivers' employment and cutting back on training and safety in order to be better able to win contracts. Unite is calling for minimum standards for the industry as well as industry-wide bargaining when it comes to pensions, terms and conditions of employment, training, and health and safety.
Both the government and opposition are hoping a strike can be averted. Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, was quoted by the BBC saying, We are calling on the trade union Unite and the employers involved to work together to reach an agreement that will avert industrial action. Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country.
John Trickett, the Labour Party's shadow minister for the Cabinet Office said, It is essential that a strike is averted. The Government should get a grip and show that it understands the gravity of the current situation. They should immediately insist that both sides begin negotiations as every second's delay is a wasted opportunity and a moment lost.
The government has devised a contingency plan should a strike vote be taken but they are not revealing exactly what that plan is. However, it is being reported in the Guardian and other media that 300 soldiers have been placed on standby. If a strike is called, the soldiers will begin training next week to drive petrol tankers.
Maude said, Although we are pushing for an agreement we have learned the lessons of the past and stand ready to act to minimise disruption to motorists, to industry and, in particular to our emergency services, in the event of a strike.
The "lessons of the past" referred to by the minister was what took place in September 2000, when large protests were held to rally against high fuel prices. While the then government blamed the high prices on the world price of oil, protesters demanded that the amount of tax on a litre of fuel be reduced.
As reported by the BBC, the protests included blockades of refineries and fuel depots, preventing the delivery of petrol to gas stations. That, plus the hoarding of gasoline, resulted in many stations running dry. The current government is determined not to let that happen again.
Should the members of Unite vote for a strike, it is expected to begin around April 3.
More about uk petrol strike, unite the union, francis maude, jon trickett
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