Petrol Peace: Are strikes looming? Or will time run out for the unions

Petrol pump Photo: Reuters

The Unite Union is meeting with six tanker firms at ACAS. In this search for petrol peace - the two parties have only a narrow window of opportunity - 48 hours before a legal deadline which means that the union must decide its next move or lose its ballot mandate. That point was meant to have been reached on Friday, but employers agreed an extension. That takes us to the end of tomorrow. There is powerful time pressure on these negotiations.

It is my information that the 6 tanker companies are seeking clarification from the union on what precisely the sticking points are. And there is a further pressure on the union - it emerged last week that mistakes were made in the original strike ballot which means there is no mandate at one of the big employers, Hoyer.

Petrol tankers Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

After six days of talks - both sides came up with a joint document. We've obtained it - and it shows some wide areas of agreement already reached. Especially in the areas of health, safety and training. But hopes that this would end the dispute were shattered when last Wednesday, the Unite union announced that the membership reps it had shown the deal to had decided to reject it. They say insufficient progress was made in reaching a deal on job security and sub-contracting.

Our sources suggest that employers are unhappy that the agreement was put only to a committee of union members. The tanker firms want any new deal to be voted on by the wider membership. To what extent that will become a pre-condition to these talks will be an important factor in how things go.