Felixstowe port workers to strike for 8 days later this month

The Port of Felixstowe

Strikes at the Port of Felixstowe are expected to go ahead at the end of August - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Workers at the Port of Felixstowe are set to strike later this month in a dispute over pay after arbitration talks broke down. 

Officials from the port and trade union Unite were unable to reach an agreement in arbitrations meetings on Thursday after the union member voted in favour of industrial action by a majority of 92%, following a pay dispute.

Union bosses say Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company failed to improve on their offer of a 7% pay increase to its workers, adding this was "fairly far away" from their demands and an effective pay cut with RPI currently standing at 11.9%.

Workers are set to walk out for eight days on August 21.

Further Acas arbitration talks will take place on Monday, August 8.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Both Felixstowe docks and its parent company CK Hutchison Holding Ltd are both massively profitable and incredibly wealthy. They 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.

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“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.”

A spokesman from the Port of Felixstowe said: “The company continues to actively seek a solution that works for all parties and that avoids industrial action.

"We understand our employees’ concerns at the rising cost of living and are determined to do all we can to help whilst continuing to invest in the port’s success.

"Discussions are on-going and the company's latest position in negotiations is an enhanced pay increase of 7%. We are meeting again on Monday 08 August with Acas and the union.

“The port has not had a strike since 1989 and we are disappointed that the union has served notice of industrial action while talks are ongoing. The port provides secure and well-paid employment and there will be no winners from industrial action.”

Felixstowe is the UK's largest container port and handles nearly half of the containerised freight entering the country.

Strike action is expected to have a huge impact on the UK's supply chain and could cause severe disruption to international maritime trade.

Bobby Morton, Unite national officer for docks, said: “Strike action will cause huge disruption and will generate massive shockwaves throughout the UK’s supply chain, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.

"It has had every opportunity to make our members a fair offer but has chosen not to do so.

“Felixstowe needs to stop prevaricating and make a pay offer which meets our members’ expectations.”

The workers undertake manual roles at the docks including crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores.

Business leaders and the government have called for a negotiated solution as a walkout at Felixstowe, the UK's largest port, could see vessels be diverted elsewhere in the UK or Europe. 

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce head of affairs and strategic communications, said: “We are aware of the local and national impact that a strike at the Port of Felixstowe might have on business supply chains, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce would urge both sides to continue negotiations to avoid such industrial action.

"In the meantime, businesses should look to activate their contingency plans to maintain their short-term flow of components and finished goods.”

A spokesman from the Department for Transport said: “We are aware of ongoing pay discussions and a decision to strike for eight days from August 21 at the Port of Felixstowe.

"This action by the union runs the risk of disrupting the delivery of vital supplies and freight, and we urge the union and Port to remain at the table and agree a settlement.

“We remain in close contact with the port on the potential impacts on port operations and supply chains.”

The dispute follows a number of other incidents of industrial action across the country.