TANKER drivers today mounted a picket line outside the Grangemouth oil refinery as they began a three-day strike over pay and pensions.
During previous strikes, drivers have positioned their trucks at the picket line, but today police mounted an operation to stop any vehicles getting near the plant.
Supplies of fuel to petrol stations across Scotland and north-east England and to Edinburgh Airport were expected to be hit by the stoppage, but BP said it was working to minimise the disruption and motorists were urged not to panic.
The walkout began at 4am today and will end at 8am on Monday. The Unite union, which represents the drivers, is planning a second, four-day strike beginning next Thursday if there is no settlement before then.
The dispute comes amid warnings that fuel prices are set to rise to record levels by Easter, having already increased by 5p per litre over the last month.
Around 20 drivers with banners manned the picket line outside the refinery today. The AA advised motorists against panic buying, saying it would only lead to petrol supplies running out. Edinburgh Airport said it was aware of the strike action and was making plans.
Unite said 90 per cent of the 42 Grangemouth tanker drivers balloted had voted for strike action over the imminent transfer of an aviation contract from BP to DHL. The union said the drivers were set to lose £1400 a year in pay and as much as £100,000 from the value of their pensions as a result of the switch of contract.
Tony Trench, Unite’s regional industrial officer, said: “It’s an outrage that BP, a multi-national giant which earns billions every year, is exploiting the UK’s weak employment laws to effectively swindle workers out of their retirement savings and future earnings.
“This year, one-third of workers on the aviation contract at Grangemouth could lose up to £13,000 a year from their pension on retirement and two-thirds upwards of £1400 a year from their basic earnings due to the loss of the BP share-match scheme.”
A BP spokesman said: “Our priority remains the safe delivery of fuel products to all our customers. We continue to work to minimise any potential disruption.”