It looks like Easter weekend 2012 in the UK will be a time of strike action. Good Friday falls on April 6 and unless the strike action is averted, filling up at the pumps could prove difficult. For those who like to enjoy this first long Bank Holiday weekend of the year with a few days away from home, it could be disastrous.
Timed for maximum impact the strike, over terms, conditions and safety, by fuel tanker delivery drivers could leave many people seething. The UK Coalition government is hoping, probably against hope, that the strike will be called off or settled. As the dispute is not simple, nor about one issue, an early settlement could prove elusive. However there is still time and therefore hope, that a strike can be averted.
A previous fuel tanker driver strike quickly lead to depleted fuel stocks and empty grocery shelves in the supermarket. Both of these were down to selfishness and panic buying by customers rather than the strike itself.
This time the government has been making some preparations. Members of the UK armed forces have been undergoing training to deliver the fuel supplies if and when it become vital. Today Coalition Minister Francis Maude has weighed in with advise to consumers.
Hold on to your hats. It's not rocket science.
His advice is to be sensible. To buy a jerry can and fill it up at the pumps. Put a little extra fuel in your tank before Easter too and you should have enough to take you where you want to go over the Easter break.
According to Mr Maude, "When it makes sense, a bit of extra fuel in a jerry can in the garage is a sensible precaution to take. People need to be aware that there is a risk to fuel supplies. It's not for us to give advice on what people should do. It is our obligation to tell them what is going on so that they can make their own decisions."
Whilst Maude did go on to say that there is no need for panic buying, in those few short sentences he may have instigated just that.
UK groups such as the Motoring Association have accused the government of increasing the risk of panic buying. A spokesperson for the AA said, "It’s the height of irresponsibility for Downing Street to give the impression that people should be panic-buying. They should be using all their efforts to get a settlement." The AA went on to say, "It's totally inappropriate for people to panic-buy. No strikes have yet been announced and there is enough fuel out there as long as people do not fill up unnecessarily."
Labour was quick to brand the latest comments from Mr Maude as the "height of irresponsibility part 2" and the shadow minister without portfolio Michael Dugher asked: "Has Francis Maude gone mad?!" Could be.
Labour leader Ed Miliband is hoping for a more sensible outcome and he has said, "They should get round a table, and I think this strike can be avoided and it must be avoided."
David Cameron was quickly challenged regarding Maude's scaremongering and he said, "I absolutely do not want to raise the temperature on this any more than is necessary. I do not want a strike to take place."I hope the talks will be successful but in government you always have to prepare for any eventuality. The British people would expect that. "To the British people themselves I would say look, there is no imminent strike. The unions would have to give seven days notice of any strike so there is no need to to queue to buy petrol. "If there is an opportunity to top up your tank if a strike is potentially on the way, then it is a sensible thing if you are able to do that."
Opinion: In her lifetime in the UK this blogger has experienced a previous fuel shortage, empty supermarket shelve, a sugar shortage, a potato shortage and more. All were made worse by panic buyers.
Those people who have the money to stock up indefinitely. Those consumers who care not one iota about any person but themselves. Often the greedy of society. Today Francis Maude has, perhaps intentionally, given these people a free reign. His carefully chosen words will guarantee maximum impact on UK motorists and consumers and also ensure that fuel stocks are quickly depleted. Already some petrol stations have announced they have empty pumps.
What a way for a Government to do business.