Eight-day strike begins at UK’s biggest port

Eight-day strike begins at UK’s biggest port

Eight-day strike begins at UK’s biggest port

The first of an eight-day strike by workers at the UK’s biggest container port begins on Sunday.

Some 1,900 Unite members in Felixstowe will leave in a dispute over wages in the first strike to hit the port since 1989.

It is the latest burst of industrial action to hit a growing number of sectors of the economy.

Workers, including crane drivers, machine operators and longshoremen, are taking action after voting more than 9-1 in favor of strikes.

The union said the shutdown will have a major impact on the port, which handles around four million containers a year from 2,000 ships.

But a port source said the strikes will be an “inconvenience, not a catastrophe”, claiming the supply chain was now used to disruptions in the wake of the pandemic.

“Disruption is the new normal. The supply chain has gone from ‘just in time to just in case’,” he added.

He also suggested that some suppliers of white goods, such as refrigerators and freezers, might actually receive a break because of slower sales due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Unite Secretary General Sharon Graham said: “The Felixstowe docks are extremely profitable. The latest figures show that in 2020 it made £61 million in profits.

“Its parent company, CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, is so wealthy that in the same year it distributed £99 million to its shareholders.

“So they can give the workers of Felixstowe a decent pay rise. It’s clear that both companies prioritized delivering multimillion-dollar profits and dividends over paying their workers a decent wage.

“Unite is fully focused on improving the jobs, wages and conditions of its members and will give the workers of Felixstowe its full support until this dispute is resolved and a decent pay rise is secured.”

Strike in Felixstowe harbor

The freighter Ever Alot, which is docked at the Port of Felixstowe (Joe Giddens/PA)

The Port of Felixstowe said in a statement: “The company is disappointed that Unite has not accepted our offer to call off the strike and come to the table for constructive discussions to find a solution.

“We recognize that these are difficult times but, in a slowing economy, we believe that the company’s offer, which is worth more than 8% on average this year and closer to 10% for the lowest paid workers, is fair.

“Unite failed our employees by not consulting them about the offer and as a result they were put in a position where they will miss pay by going on strike.

“The port regrets the impact this action will have on UK supply chains. We appreciate the support we’ve received from our customers and are working with them to mitigate disruptions.

“The port offers secure, well-paying employment and there will be no winners from this unnecessary industrial action.”

Strike in Felixstowe harbor

Unite union members picket (Joe Giddens/PA)

Unite National official Robert Morton said companies affected by the strike in Felixstowe should contact the port controller and urge them to return to the negotiating table.

The union official told BBC Breakfast: “Don’t blame us for the action being taken, blame Hutchison Ports for the actions they took in putting 7% on the table and saying we will meet again, but our position does not change.

“I ask these companies to contact the port employer and try to transfer them. That way, the supply chain will be open and everyone will be happy.”

Felixstowe handles nearly half of the containerized freight entering the country and the move could mean ships need to be diverted to ports elsewhere in the UK or Europe.

The company added: “The Port of Felixstowe Employees Union, representing approximately 500 positions, voted to accept the same salary offer that Unite refused to make to its members.

“We thank the employees for their support and once again ask Unite to suspend the strike scheduled for August 21 and place the same offer, which, with other benefits, is worth between 8.1% and 9.6% this year, for its employees. hourly members. .”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.