Pacific Fuel ‘downplaying’ effects of stoppage: union
Talks may yet avert a planned strike by petrol tanker drivers, but First Union says the upheaval would be ‘‘huge’’ if it went ahead.
The union and Pacific Fuel Haulage are scheduled to enter mediation on Tuesday in a bid to settle a contract covering 180 drivers who have threatened to walk off the job from December 16 to December 20.
Jared Abbott, First Union’s transport and logistics manufacturing secretary, said his members delivered fuel to Z Energy and Caltex stations, Farmlands and thousands of farms.
The company also supplies LPG to service stations, depots that fill gas cylinders, and hospitals.
‘‘I think the company is completely downplaying it,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s already a shortage [of drivers] and these guys are already working easily on average 60 to 70 hours a week, and doing extra overtime on their days off.’’
Z Energy, which has 220 petrol stations, is looking at ways to reduce the impact of any strike action. That could include getting other transport operators to assist.
However, it is a busy time of year for the industry.
Jackie Carroll, whose company Tranzliquid also carts fuel, said it was pretty much at capacity catering for existing customers.
Alan Pearson is chief executive of TIL Logistics, Pacific Fuel Haul’s parent company.
He said there were no grounds for a strike because the company had already agreed to go to mediation when the union served notice of the proposed stoppage, but he was hopeful it could be averted.
If not, there would be a significant impact on gas supplies as the company delivered to a large number of hospitals. Rockgas was a major customer.
About 40 per cent of Pacific’s workforce were not union members and Pearson said they were putting together a skeleton crew to do some deliveries if the strike went ahead.
‘‘We’re doing our best to to minimise the effect on our customers.’’
Abbott said ‘‘clawback’’ clauses were a major sticking point in negotiations.
‘‘They’re saying: ‘We will give you a pay rise, but we will take all these other things off you.’ ’’
The threatened tanker driver stoppage is due to end the day before Air New Zealand engineers are due to strike for a day, but those looking to rail as an alternative form of transport could be disappointed.
KiwiRail’s general manager of sales, Alan Piper, said it was too early to tell whether the possible airline strike would affect bookings, which were always heavy at this time of year.
‘‘There is limited capacity for extra bookings. The period leading up to Christmas is also a period of strong demand for freight services, and there is also limited capacity to accommodate more freight.’’
Z Energy’s 220 stations would be affected if Pacific Fuel Haul drivers walk off the job on December 16.