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Refinery picketed in pay protest

MORE than 100 tanker drivers last night threatened week-long strike action after a one-day protest in Cheshire.

MORE than 100 tanker drivers last night threatened week-long strike action after a one-day protest in Cheshire.

The drivers, who transport chemicals to the region's petrol stations and car showrooms, launched a 24-hour picket line at the Stanlow Oil Refinery yesterday near Ellesmere Port.

The Transport and General Workers' Union claims a new pay structure from employers P&O Trans European will cut drivers' wages by up to £5,000.

Yesterday's industrial action, following the breakdown of two years of talks between the sides, was the first in a series of one-day strikes with the another planned for next Monday.

But a spokesman for the TGU said last night the action was likely to be stepped up unless the union's demands were met.

The spokesman said: "The dispute is being solidly supported at the Ellesmere Port depot.

"Pickets are out there and there is a great sense of determination. There's no movement from P&O to resolve the dispute so next Monday's action will go ahead and the company has been informed of that in line with legal requirements.

"We will meet on Wednesday to review how the protest has gone and the pressure is on us from the drivers to increase the action.

"If the decision is taken to escalate, we would look at a prolonged period which could be up to a week.

"We are very determined to see this carried out, putting the ball firmly in the court of the company."

The action was repeated at several smaller depots nationwide also affected by the pay deal including West Thurrock, Billingham and Hull.

National secretary for transport, Ron Webb said: "Moving these semi-hazardous materials is a dangerous business. Some common sense must prevail and these drivers, who drive potential bombs must be properly rewarded, respected and valued.

"Cutting costs by cutting members' pay is simply not acceptable and not in the interests of health and safety."

P&O Trans European last night refused to back down.

A spokesman for the company said: "We would emphasise that the new deal has been fully reviewed by our health and safety staff and does not in any way infringe P&O's commitment to the highest standards of health and safety.

"Each of the drivers has been offered the option of a two month trial period on the new terms, without detriment to his accrued rights. This period offers a way forward for both sides.

"The strike action is unhelpful and counter-productive."

There would be no disruption to fuel supplies.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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