South Tyneside fuel depot still on hit list

Target ... the Jarrow Shell UK terminal.
Target ... the Jarrow Shell UK terminal.

TALKS resumed today in a bid to avert a tanker strike which could hit a South Tyneside oil terminal.

A union boss confirmed that the Shell UK terminal in Jarrow will be picketed if action is launched.

Workers from five distribution companies have voted for strike action in a national tanker drivers’ dispute over pay and safety standards.

The terminal, at Quay Corner, has been the scene of several previous fuel protests, the most serious in September 2000 when dozens of farmers staged a blockade of the site in protest at high fuel duty.

Although the threat of strike action over the Easter weekend was lifted, fears remain of petrol pumps running dry if talks break down and tanker drivers vote for industrial action.

Unite union regional organiser Nick Haldon said: “Jarrow is the main terminal for distribution of supplies in the North East and it would be picketed if strike action goes ahead.

“We have to give seven days’ notice of action and must operate within the law, but the Jarrow terminal would be a target for action.

“At the same time, we don’t want to panic anyone.

“The talks at national level with Acas are ongoing and we hope a resolution can be found to this dispute.”

Unite officials last week met officials from six distribution firms to try to resolve a dispute over terms and conditions and health and safety.

Acas chief conciliator Peter Harwood said: “The discussions have been constructive, with the parties positively engaged and committed to the process.

“We are pleased that they have agreed to continue their discussions with Acas.”

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.

The Government advised motorists to top up with fuel, leading to chaotic scenes at garages across the country as people queued for petrol and prompting calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who advised motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.

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