Last-ditch talks aimed at averting a four-day strike by hundreds of fuel tanker drivers in a row over pay broke down last night.
The drivers, who deliver fuel to Shell petrol stations across the UK, will now go ahead with the walk-out from 6am today, leading to fears of petrol shortages.
Sites to be picketed by striking tanker drivers will include Grangemouth, Aberdeen, and Inverness.
Officials from the Unite union and managers from two firms which deliver fuel to Shell garages held more than nine hours of talks yesterday to try to break the deadlocked dispute, following 10 hours of negotiations on Wednesday.
Hoyer and Suckling Transport, the two firms involved in the dispute, said they had put two offers to the union yesterday — an increase for this year of 7.3% backdated to January 1, 2008, which would take average earnings to over £39,000, with a further 6% increase from January 1 2009, which would take earnings to around £41,500.
The firms said they asked the union to suspend the strike and put the offers to a ballot of the workers but accused Unite of refusing.
Spokesman Bernie Holloway said: “We offered a substantial amount to the drivers. We extended our offer to the very limits that our business could sustain. Unfortunately, it looks likely now that there will be a damaging and costly strike.”
Drivers in some regions have already started to panic-buy fuel despite pleas from the UK Government and the oil and transport industries to fill up cars as normal.
One in 10 of Britain’s 9,500 filling stations will be affected by the industrial action.
The government has drawn up plans to deal with the stoppage, allowing suppliers to share information about stocks without falling foul of competition laws.
Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary of Unite, condemned Shell for not int-ervening. “This dispute could have been resolved if Shell had advanced a fraction of the billions of pounds in profit they make every month.”
He said he expected Shell garages would start to run out of petrol “almost immediately” and all 1,000 forecourts concerned will be affected within 24 hours.
Drivers will picket around 14 oil terminals across the country for the duration of the strike, including sites in Ellesmere Port and Grangemouth, which was hit by a separate dispute last month.