Union members at national fuel distributor Hoyer Petrolog UK are unhappy recruits are being offered more lucrative pay packets on joining – with the dispute predating the panic buying of fuel.
New drivers employed to help fill a critical shortage of HGV drivers across Britain are being given better pay after existing drivers turned down a 20 per cent hike.
Unite the Union members who take petrol to the region’s forecourts from BP’s fuel terminal at Hamble are now balloting for industrial action over the dispute.
It’s not yet clear what action union members could opt to take – if any.
One insider told The News action including a strike would severely cut the availability of petrol at forecourts.
The source said: ‘You wouldn’t get any product in the forecourts - it’s that plain and simple.
‘There would be no product - the garages would run dry.’
Hamble fuel terminal is supplied by Fawley refinery via a pipeline under Southampton Water.
Drivers deliver fuel to service stations across the south of England from the site.
Insiders say if the Hoyer drivers do take action, the site’s operators who handle import and export could follow - along with those at Fawley.
‘If the operators were to go on strike they could effectively bring the south coast and half of England to its knees easily,’ the insider said.
It comes as pressure on petrol stations across the Portsmouth area is huge - with widespread queuing on Friday and Saturday.
Supplies of fuel that would normally last days have been vanishing within hours due to panic buying.
A spokeswoman for Hoyer said: ‘In July, Hoyer Petrolog UK offered a small number of drivers based in Hamble an increase in their remuneration package worth in excess of 20 per cent.
‘This increase was in response to the well-publicised acute tightening of the driver market and Hoyer's ongoing desire to pay above local market rates. Unfortunately, not all drivers were willing to accept these new rates of pay.
‘So as to ensure a sustainable operation for our clients, Hoyer decided to recruit drivers on these new terms, which remain open to all existing drivers.
‘We remain open to constructive dialogue with Unite to ensure that we are able to amicably resolve the current issues.’
Hoyer has 570 vehicles based at 39 locations in Britain, employing 1,450 people.
BP and Unite were contacted for comment.
On Friday BP said around 20 of its 1,200 petrol forecourts were closed due to a lack of available fuel, with between 50 and 100 sites affected by the loss of at least one grade of fuel.
A ‘small number’ of Tesco refilling stations have also been impacted, said Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers brought in on three-month contracts to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.
He blamed the Road Haulage Association for leaking comments from BP bosses about supply concerns, leading to the ‘manufactured situation’ with panic buying.