Eight days of strike action expected from Sunday 21 August after talks between port and employee representatives failed to produce an agreement
By Will Waters
Hundreds of workers at the UK’s biggest container port, Port of Felixstowe, look set to begin strike action this month in a dispute over pay after talks between port and employee representatives failed to produce an agreement.
The union Unite said over 1,900 of its worker members “will begin eight days of strike action on Sunday 21 August, ending on Monday 29 August”. It claimed that their employer, the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, had failed to significantly improve on its offer of a 7% pay increase, “which is significantly below the real (RPI) inflation rate of 11.8%. The union said industrial relations “were already strained as workers only received a 1.4%, below inflation, increase last year”.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Both Felixstowe docks and its parent company CK Hutchison Holding Ltd are fully able to pay the workforce a fair day’s pay. The company has prioritised delivering multi-million-pound dividends rather than paying its workers a decent wage.
“Unite is entirely focused on enhancing its members’ jobs, pay and conditions and it will be giving the workers at Felixstowe its complete support until this dispute is resolved and a decent pay increase is secured.”
UK’s largest container port
Unite highlighted that Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port, with an estimated 48% of UK import containers transported via the port. It said strike action “will have a huge effect on the UK’s supply chain and will also cause severe disruption to international maritime trade, as well as the UK’s supply chain including the logistics and haulage sectors”.
In a statement on 9 August after talks broke down the previous day, Port of Felixstowe said: “We are disappointed and regret that despite our best efforts we have still been unable to reach an agreement with the hourly branch of Unite. During talks yesterday, the port further improved its position offering a £500 lump sum in addition to 7%. The staff branch of Unite and the Police Federation of Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company have agreed to put a similar offer to their members.
“In contrast, the hourly branch of Unite has again rejected the port’s improved position and refused to put it to its members. We urge them to consult their members on the latest offer as soon as possible. There will be no winners from a strike which will only result in their members losing money they would otherwise have earned. Our focus has been to find a solution that works for our employees and protects the future success of the port.”
Port of Felixstowe said the union “has rejected the company’s offer to meet again”.