Proposals aimed at resolving the fuel tanker drivers dispute were drawn up tonight, raising hopes that strikes can be averted.
Leaders Unite held talks all week with officials from six distribution companies under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.
Peter Harwood, Acas chief conciliator, said:
Over the past fortnight the six contractors have met with the Unite trade union through the Acas conciliation service. Acas has been shuttling between the parties and the process has been a challenging one but we are pleased to announce that a set of proposals have been reached.
As you would expect the details of the proposals are confidential until the parties report back to their respective organisations. After that the details may be disclosed by the parties themselves.
Unite had earlier been given an extension to a deadline for declaring strikes in the fuel tanker drivers dispute so that peace talks could continue.
Under employment law, the union should have made a decision by late afternoon on whether to call its 2,000 members in the industry out on strike after they voted last month for industrial action.
Mr Harwood added:
The extension to the ballot period was agreed to enable those consultations to take place.
Acas is pleased at this development and hope that the matter will soon be settled."Unite officials will meet next week to decide whether to accept the proposals drawn up after this week's talks.
The dispute 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.
There was a spate of panic-buying of fuel by motorists last month after the Government advised them to top up their tanks because of the threat of a strike.
Chaotic scenes and long queues were seen at garages across the country following the Government's advice, which was heavily criticised.
Labour led calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude for advising motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.