Almost 2,000 workers have started strike action on Sunday at the UK’s largest port in Felxstowe over a dispute in pay.
This is first strike at Fleixstowe port since 1989 and is the latest outbreak of industrial action to hit the UK.
Around 1,900 members at the UK’s largest container port includes crane drivers, machine operators after they voted by more than 9-1 in favour of industrial action.
The union warned that the strike will have an impact on the port as they handle more than 2,000 ships carrying containers a year.
However a source at the port said it will more of an “inconvenience not a catastrophe,” because the supply chain is now used to disruption following the pandemic.
The source added, “Disruption is the new normal. The supply chain has moved from ‘just in time to just in case’.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said Felixstowe docks is “enormously profitable” as “The latest figures show that in 2020 it made £61m in profits.”
Graham added, “Its parent company, CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, is so wealthy that, in the same year, it handed out £99m to its shareholders.
“So they can give Felixstowe workers a decent pay raise,” she argued.
The Port of Felixstowe said it was “disappointed” and “We recognise these are difficult times but… we believe that the company’s offer, worth over 8% on average… is fair.
“The port regrets the impact this action will have on UK supply chains… there will be no winners from this unnecessary industrial action.”
The company added, “The Port of Felixstowe staff union, representing approximately 500 positions, has voted to accept the same pay offer that Unite has refused to put to its members.
“We thank staff members for their support and once again urge Unite to suspend the strike planned for August 21 and put the same offer, which, with other benefits, is worth between 8.1% and 9.6% this year, to their hourly-paid members.”
The union official told BBC Breakfast, “Don’t blame us for the action that’s being taken, blame Hutchison ports for the actions they’ve taken in putting 7% on the table and saying that we will meet you again but our position will not change.
“I would urge those companies to get in touch with the port employer and try to move them. That way the supply chain will be opened up and everyone will be happy.”