Pa­cific Fuel ‘down­play­ing’ ef­fects of stop­page: union

Waikato Times - - Business - Amanda Cropp

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.

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