September 23, 2022

Workers at UK’s largest container port, Felixstowe, to begin 8-day strike | United States and world

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 1,900 workers at Britain’s biggest container port are due to begin an eight-day strike on Sunday that their union and shipping companies say could severely affect trade and supply chains.

Staff at Felixstowe on the east coast of England are taking industrial action in a pay dispute, becoming the latest workers to strike in Britain as unions demand higher wages for members facing a cost of living crisis.

“Strike action will cause huge disruption and send massive shockwaves through the UK supply chain, but this dispute is entirely within the company,” said Bobby Morton, National Docks Manager of the Unite union.

“This [the company] had every opportunity to make a fair offer to our members, but chose not to.”

On Friday, Felixstowe operator Hutchison Ports said he believed his offer of a 7% pay rise and a lump sum of 500 pounds ($604) was fair. He said the port workers‘ union, which represents around 500 employees in supervisory, engineering and clerical roles, had agreed to the deal.

Unite, which primarily represents dockworkers, says the proposal is significantly below the current rate of inflation and followed a below-inflation increase last year.

“The port regrets the impact this action will have on UK supply chains,” a Hutchison Ports spokesperson said.

The port said it will have a contingency plan in place and is working to minimize disruption during the walkouts which will last until August 29.

Shipping group Maersk, one of the world’s biggest container shippers, warned the move would have a significant impact, causing operational delays and forcing it to change its line of ships.

Figures released on August 17 show consumer price inflation in Britain hit 10.1% in July, the highest since February 1982, and some economists forecast it will hit 15% in the next three first months of next year against a backdrop of rising energy and food prices.

Squeezing household incomes have already led to strikes among railway and bus workers demanding higher pay rises.

(Reporting by Michael Holden)