UK’s largest port threatened by strike

by Emily Atkins

Felixstowe, the largest port in the United Kingdom, may face a strike in August.

Workers at the port overwhelmingly backed strike action in a dispute over pay. Members of Unite, one of the biggest unions in the UK voted 92 percent in favour of industrial action on an 81 percent turnout.

Unite members at Felixstowe are responsible for all aspects of the port’s operation.

The dispute is a result of the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company offering a pay increase of just five percent to its workers. This is an effective pay cut with the real (RPI) rate of inflation currently standing at 11.9 percent. Last year the workforce received a below inflation pay increase of 1.4 percent.

“The bottom line is this is an extremely wealthy company that can fully afford to give its workers a pay rise. Instead it chose to give bonanza pay outs to shareholders touching £100 million,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“Unite is focused on defending the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and we will giving 100 percent support to our members at Felixstowe. Workers should not be paying the price for the pandemic with a pay cut.”

Strike action would bring Felixstowe to a standstill and would cause major logistical problems for maritime and road haulage transport entering the port. The port handles 48 percent of the UK’s container trade.

At the end of December 2021 the port passed the 100 million TEU mark since it handled its first container in the 1960s.

Strike dates have yet to be announced.

“Even at this late stage the dispute could be resolved by the company returning to negotiations and making a realistic offer,” said Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard.