Fuel tanker drivers are voting next week on whether to take strike action to fight what they see as attacks on their terms and conditions that could lead to safety lapses.

Some 2,000 members of the Unite union who work for seven major fuel distribution firms will be balloted in a dispute that hinges on the working conditions of drivers.

There's a race to the bottom. Firms are cutting corners and this has an impact on health and safety, Chantal Chgrinec, a spokeswoman at Unite, said.

The union wants to establish a forum to agree on industry-wide best practices on safety, training and terms and conditions and said that companies had refused to meaningfully engage in the process.

A spokeswoman at Wincanton, one of the biggest players in UK fuel distribution, said it had been recognised by the Energy Institute in November as being a leader in terms of health and safety.

Unite said union members account for 90 percent of the traffic that goes to forecourts across the country.

There could be significant political ramifications if the strike goes ahead.

In 2000 blockades of oil facilities caused disruption to the supply of gasoline and diesel and dented the popularity of the Labour government, led by Tony Blair.

(Reporting by Simon Falush, editing by Jane Baird)