Dock dispute risks snowballing as engineering workers strike over festive break

A ballot begins on Christmas Eve which could widen strike action at the Port of Felixstowe Picture:

A ballot begins on Christmas Eve which could widen strike action at the Port of Felixstowe Picture: IAIN BLACKLAW - Credit:

Engineering workers at Felixstowe docks will begin strike action just after the Christmas break in a row over the transfer jobs to an outside company.

The workers - who fear some of them will be transferred to Universal Tyres - will take two-day strike action on December 27 and 28.

As they take action, there is a possibility that strike action could spread across the dock - as union Unite ballots the wider dock workforce on industrial action.

More than 110 engineers, employed by the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, voted by 98% in favour of strike action.

MORE - Port engineers prepare to strike as union hits back over outsourcing plansThey will hold stoppages between 7am to 7pm on both days.

Unite says it has about 1,900 members at the UK's busiest container port, including the 116 engineers.

While it is only the tyre fitting operation which faces being transferred, it fears could be the start of an unwelcome trend, it says.

It has announced today that it will also start balloting its remaining 1,800 members at the docks for strike action and industrial action short of a strike on the outsourcing issue. The ballot will open on December 24 and closes on January 14.

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Unite regional officer Neal Evans said: "What we have here, if this outsourcing proposal involving Universal Tyres goes ahead, is the thin end of the wedge which, we believe, will see a salami-slicing of pay and conditions in the future. This is completely unacceptable.

"At present, the threat is just to the tyre fitting operation but we fear that this could affect more of our engineering members going forward."

He added: "The crux of this dispute is that our engineering members consider that the identity of their employer is a condition of their employment contract and they do not want that being changed unilaterally.

"Concern is also snowballing amongst the rest of our 1,800 membership that they could be next for the outsourcing 'chop' - and that's why we are holding a further ballot for those members for industrial action, including strike action.

"This latest ballot is a really powerful shot across the company's bows - however, there is still time for management to row back on these flawed plans that have nothing to do with the smooth running of the port, but are framed to squeeze out the last penny of profit at the expense of the dedicated workforce."

The port had no comment.

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