Justine McGuinness is handling crisis communi-cations and advising on reputation management for Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport, the only suppliers of petrol to Shell's forecourts.
Hundreds of tanker drivers employed by the two hauliers are threatening to strike over pay - prompting fears that filling stations could run dry this weekend. Hoyer UK and Suckling Transport are desperate to avert any type of strike action.
‘I was approached by the companies last week,' said McGuinness. ‘This is a really interesting challenge. It's a very meaty issue. Anything to do with petrol and diesel is very high profile.'
Talks between the two companies and the Unite union commenced this Wednesday, overseen by ACAS. If the negotiations are not successful, 650 drivers are expected to come out on strike from this Friday. Strike action would see deliveries to one in ten garages being halted. Press interest has focused on what impact the strike would have on the average consumer.
‘Particular outlets have really been pumping it up,' said McGuinness of some of the inflammatory petrol crisis headlines.
McGuinness is also pushing the message that the wage increase the firms have offered (6.8 per cent) is an ‘extremely good offer', one that would take the average driver's salary to £39,000.
McGuinness is working closely with Shell's PR agency, Blue Rubicon.
She represented the McCanns from June to September 2007 and has also worked as head of public affairs at Stansted Airport.
‘One of the things we're trying to do is be reasonable,' she said. ‘We don't want
people to panic. Shell has 17 per cent of the forecourts market, so there are still other companies. It doesn't mean the country will run dry.'