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Tank-Truck Contract Drivers’ Dispute Ends in UK with Pressure Against Shell

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30 June, 2008

A second four-day strike by contract drivers of Royal Dutch Shell in the UK was not necessary for 20-23 June. ICEM affiliate Unite, representing 600 tank-truck drivers of Hoyer and J.W. Suckling Transport Ltd., won a two-year, 14% pay increase for the drivers instead, thanks to a strike two weeks ago that pressured Shell.

The agreement came in the days following the end of the first industrial action on 17 June. Drivers voted by a 453-56 margin to accept a pay package that will give them a 9% this year, and 5% in 2009. The wage gains met Unite’s goal of lifting drivers’ gross pay to £36,000 per year.

A strike from 13 June to the early morning hours of 17 June stopped petrol supplies at Shell’s 950 retail stations in the UK, and severely impacted delivery of fuel for BP, Total, and Esso. Most drivers for those companies refused to cross picket lines at Shell depots and terminals.

The dispute was unique for contract workers, since it saw a union successfully bring pressure on a primary company over low contract fees paid to service providers. Unite’s pressure on Shell brought the wage increases for drivers, who are directly employed by Hoyer UK, a transport company based in Germany, and J.W. Suckling, wholly owned by the UK equity firm, Harris Holdings.