UNITE, the union representing the tanker drivers at seven firms, had voted for strike action over terms and conditions and safety. However, the union will have to give seven days' notice before calling a strike after winning approval for industrial action in a ballot of the tanker drivers. And while a repeat of 2000’s fuel strikes is more or less possible, no date has been officially set as the union is expected to finalise a framework that should allow discussions, which will try to resolve the disputes, to begin next week.
Recriminations started flying immediately after Maude suggested that lives were being placed at risk by the planned strike in addition to urging motorists to stock up on petrol by filling up jerry cans and keeping them in garages. British firefighters quickly warned that the comments were ‘grossly irresponsible’ as it invited motorists to break the law in case of a fuel shortage.
Following the warning, transport minister Mike Penning said Maude had been mistaken over the size of jerry cans.
“You can't store that amount of petrol,” he told the media. “It was a mistake by the Cabinet minister. He didn't understand the size of a jerry can. He has apologised since.”
As Maude continues to be pilloried, the government, in its turn, continues to suffer arguably the worst week it has had since the election. With the fuel crisis as it is, the government can only hope for the worst, because that is its best way out of this mess.