A strike over Easter by petrol tanker drivers has been ruled out, but the fuel crisis continues as garage pumps run dry across Liverpool and the country, after demand soared during an extraordinary week.
Large queues at petrol stations have been reported around Liverpool, with motorists desperately trying to stock up on fuel, on government advice, amid rumours of strike action and a resulting supply shortage.
The panic appeared to peak on Thursday, and one garage at the Sainsbury's in East Prescot Road had what one eyewitness described as "more than a hundred cars" snaking around the supermarket premises, as motorists queued for hours to fill up their tanks. Even at midnight, a Shell garage at The Rocket had around 20 cars backing up onto the Queen's Drive dual carriageway.
With many forecourts deserted on Friday as petrol and diesel supplies ran out, motorists were finally handed some good news as union officials confirmed no industrial action will take place over the upcoming holiday period.
The government has also announced a relaxation on
the rules on drivers’ hours, allowing them to work 11
hours per day, instead of the EU rule of nine hours, in
order to maintain supply to filling stations.
Unite union assistant general secretary, Diana Holland,
said: “We will not be calling Easter strike action as we
focus on substantive talks through [conciliation service]
"We do still retain the right to call strike action for
after Easter should those talks breakdown. This is not
a political dispute. It is an industrial dispute and the
government's recent rhetoric will not help us achieve
a negotiated settlement.
"The government must set aside its political objectives
and work with us, the employers, retailers and oil
companies to achieve an outcome that is good for the
industry and the country.”
JMU Journalism spoke to some motorists who were
queuing for fuel in South Liverpool as word spread of
a potential strike by fuel tanker drivers.
Mark Ward, 24, said: “I heard the announcement and came to fill the car up, I thought it was better to be safe than sorry, even if the strike doesn’t happen.”
Sarah Clark, 40, who was waiting in the garage queues, said: “I don’t think it will be as big a deal as everyone is making out, but I’ll be kicking myself if the strike goes ahead and I’m left short of petrol.”
A political storm has also been brewing, with Labour leader Ed Miliband accusing David Cameron of “presiding over a shambles on petrol”.
Labour peer Lord Harris called for the Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, to quit after a woman in York suffered 40% burns trying to pour petrol into a jug for her daughter’s car. Mr Maude had earlier told motorists to keep a jerry can full of petrol in their garage in the event of strike action.
Lord Harris tweeted: “This woman was following advice from Govt Minister Francis Maude & ends up with 40% burns. Disgraceful. He shd [should] resign.”
By Liam Deveney & Erin McLoughlin, JMU Journalism Liverpool Life
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YouTube: UK motorists head to the pumps