Fuel tanker drivers are to vote on a proposed deal aimed at averting strikes, with a recommendation to reject it, keeping alive the threat of industrial action.

A meeting of representatives belonging to the Unite union voted overwhelmingly to recommend rejection of the proposals which will now be put to more than 2,000 tanker drivers across seven oil distribution firms.

Delegates said they recognised that progress had been made on health, safety and training issues, but expressed "deep concern" that the proposals did not go far enough in bringing stability and security to the sector through industry minimum standards.

Drivers expressed disappointment at the employers' failure to give sufficient guarantees on maintaining standards, security of employment, pensions and sub-contracting.

Unite's assistant general secretary, Diana Holland, said: "The proposals represent progress on some of the key areas such as health and safety. But it is clear that they do not give enough guarantees that the instability and insecurity gripping the industry will come to an end.

"It is in everyone's interest that we end the contract merry-go-round and the erosion of standards in a vital industry.

"Delegates felt the proposals did not meet members' expectations and are recommending that members reject them in the consultative ballot."

The ballot is expected to close on May 11.

The news came as ballot papers were sent out to more than 530 tanker drivers working for the oil distribution firm Hoyer.

Unite is re-balloting its members following concerns that some did not receive voting papers in the original ballot.