UK Tory Minister Francis Maude advises jerry cans of fuel in event of strike.
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.
For every small piece of good news, as far as jobs in the UK go, there seems to be worse news on the horizon. It is a case of two steps forward and four steps back.
After weeks of speculation retailers Game and Past Times have both gone into administration. Whilst both retailers have an online presence they also have a huge presence on the High Street. With so many stores around the country any closures will result in more empty, boarded up shops with their associated problems.
This will no doubt be the future for many City Centre retailers. Their futures could lie online. Whilst this will still result in many vacant properties at least businesses may be saved which should mean some work available. Past Times and Game UK have gone into administration which will mean that if no buyer is found both are liable to stop trading.
In January 2012 Past Times appointed an administrator, having already closed 46 stores, resulting in 507 redundancies. 30 people were made redundant at Past Times head office and another 37 at its warehouse. It now looks doubtful that the remaining 51 stores will continue to trade. A total of 531 people are still employed at Past Times.
Workers at Game will fare much worse. Today's announcement that the company has now officially gone into administration is bad news. 277 of Game's 609 UK stores will close immediately. By the end of this week 2,119 Game employees will have been made redundant from Game.
Game could be taken over by a UK Bank backed consortium. As Game owes UK banks £85m , with an additional £95m due to suppliers, this could be a sensible option. Game's financial difficulties are not restricted to the UK though. Around 5,500 workers in other countries could lose their jobs too.
Add to this UK sky high fuel prices and you have a recipe for disaster. Not only will high fuel prices affect public transport costs, the cost of food and much more it looks like it may also lead a Strike.
Labour were hit by a fuel tanker strike when prices rocketed during their term in office. Now it looks like the Coalition could have a taste of the same. Today March 26, 2012, petrol tanker drivers have voted in favour of a National strike. This time however the tanker drivers gripe is with their terms of employment and safety issues.
Late last week it was obvious that the Coalition feared such a course of action. Media sources reported that members of the UK armed forces were being trained to drive fuel tankers in the event of a strike. UK Government minister Francis Maude has maintained that this is simply the government acting wisely to prevent a re-run of the previous unrest.
In the year 2000 UK fuel tanker drivers went on strike and chaos quickly descended. Panic buying of what fuel there was and stock piling of food quickly left supermarket shelves empty. Public transport also ground to a halt. That strike was short lived but one in 2012 may not be.
Already people are filling up at the pumps more than they would normally.
Francis Maude made a final appeal to the drivers before their ballot. He said: "Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country. "The general public should not and must not suffer from this dispute and strike action is manifestly not the answer."
A spokesperson for the Unite Union told Sky News, "Contracts chop and change every three to five years, bringing with each change a fresh assault on working conditions. "They [oil companies] suck up the profits but are leaving a dangerous structural mess behind them." The union has called on employers to help set up minimum standards covering training, health and safety.
Unite represents 2,000 drivers who account for 90% of those supplying petrol to UK forecourts. The drivers who were balloted are from seven distributors - Wincanton, DHL, Hoyer, BP, J.W Suckling, Norbert Dentressangle and Turners. Two of the companies did not vote in favour of strike action."
In the past we have had to face UK Winter's of discontent but will 2012 prove to be our Summer of Discontent?