3:08am Thursday 19th April 2012
© Press Association 2013
Moves to head off a strike by fuel tanker drivers hang in the balance after a peace deal was rejected.
Around 60 Unite union representatives overwhelmingly turned down proposals aimed at resolving a long running dispute over issues including pensions and health and safety.
The union has until Friday afternoon to specify what form of industrial action it plans to take, having to give a week's notice of strikes. Unite could call an hour's strike to comply with employment law without disrupting supplies to garages.
Motorists were urged not to panic buy fuel as Unite said it wanted a negotiated settlement and stressed that it had not yet decided whether to name dates for action.
The Government expressed disappointment with rejection of the deal with Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey saying that "any strike action would be wrong and unnecessary".
After the row flared last month the Government advised motorists to top up their cars with petrol and to store fuel in jerry cans, leading to panic buying and shortages of supplies. There were chaotic scenes at garages as long queues built up, leading to criticism of the Government for the way they had handled the dispute.
Despite the rejection it is believed that progress was made on a number of issues including pensions, health and safety and training.
Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: "While there has been some progress it is clear that our members need more guarantees and assurances from the employers about their commitment to meaningful minimum standards.
"We remain committed to achieving a negotiated settlement that brings stability and security to a vital industry and gives this workforce, and the public, confidence that the race to the bottom is ending."
AA president Edmund King said: "This does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike as talks are likely to resume. Our message to drivers is to continue with their normal buying pattern for fuel."
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