Talks will resume on Monday to try to avert a strike by fuel tanker drivers after an offer was rejected this week, a mediation body said on Thursday.

The dispute, which has rattled the Conservative-led government, concerns a wide range of issues from health and safety to pay and pensions, and is complicated by the number of companies involved and because some delivery services are sub-contracted out.

The Unite union, which represents the 2,000 drivers who backed a strike last month, will meet employers at ACAS, the independent industrial mediation body, next week.

Unite has said its members overwhelmingly voted against accepting new proposals put forward by six haulage firms which supply Britain's petrol stations, but they supported further talks before they take action which could seriously disrupt supplies.

Any strike could hit 90 percent of fuel station forecourts and stocks would begin to run dry within 48 hours of any action, according to Unite.

Government advice to drivers earlier this month to prepare for a stoppage and to keep some fuel in jerry cans in garages led to panic-buying and huge queues at fuel stations.

That advice was later withdrawn after criticism from fuel retailers who said ministers had created a crisis and fire brigade officials who said stockpiling petrol at home was extremely dangerous.

Unite had wanted to return to talks before Friday, the deadline for confirming dates for a strike, but it was agreed the deadline would be extended.

ACAS talks will reconvene on Monday, Peter Harwood, ACAS chief conciliator, said in a statement.

The employers and Unite have agreed to an extension of the validity of the ballot period for a further four days until Tuesday, to enable these talks to take place.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)