Industrial action threats at port

FELIXSTOWE: Workers at the port have voted in favour of industrial action over pay.

However, management is hopeful that further talks with the Unite trade union will avert the threat of action over what they have described as a “generous and final” offer.

Members of Unite are understood to have voted decisively in favour of industrial action over their pay claim.

No one from the union was available to comment on the situation at Felixstowe, but it is understood that just over 90 per cent of those who voted backed some form of industrial action while about 85pc backed an all-out strike.

They have rejected an offer from port owners Hutchison of a 1.5pc pay rise and an extra �500 per head.

Port spokesman Paul Davey said the offer amounted to about 3pc for most of the port workers who were on an average salary of �30,000.

He said: “This is a generous and final offer, but we still have further negotiations to have with the union and we hope we can reach agreeement over the next few weeks.”

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Union officials apparently asked the company for 5pc plus a �500 lump sum for each worker to make up for the two days compulsory unpaid leave workers had to take this year as part of the earlier cuts.

After the result of the ballot was told to port workers, one contacted the Evening Star website to say: “We hope the Port of Felixstowe hears the voices of the port workers.”

Discontent has been simmering for some time after the port brought in cost-cutting measures as the amount of work there fell as trade fell off during the height of the recession in the early months of last year.

During the negotiations earlier this year one port worker said: “The feeling is that the port is very busy at the moment and last year was not as bad as the management thought it would be.

“The offer is just not good enough and we want management to see how we feel about it and take our opinions seriously.”

Last year all bonus schemes were scrapped, compulsory unpaid leave brought in, “hot seat” changeover payments axed, canteen subsidies removed, and the port closed on Boxing Day to cut costs.

n Would the port workers be justified in calling industrial action? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail