Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, could soon be brought to a standstill after dock workers voted overwhelmingly to strike in August. No actual strike date has been set, and both sides will be resuming negotiations next week. Main outstanding issue: below-inflation wage increases offered by management.
Felixstowe handled 4 million TEUs annually, nearly half of all UK container trade. Voting for potential strike is also underway at the Port of Liverpool.
A wave of industrial action is sweeping across Europe’s main ports as runaway inflation and a cost-of-living crisis cut deep into worker wages.
Unite, one of the UK’s largest unions, said in a statement Thursday that 92 percent of its members at Felixstowe voted in favor of a walkout agreed to strike. The port is operated by a division of Hutchison Ports UK, a subsidiary of CK Hutchison Holdings.
“The bottom line is this is an extremely wealthy company that can fully afford to give its workers a pay rise. Instead, it chose to give bonanza pay outs to shareholders touching £100 million ($121 million),” Sharon Graham, secretary general of Unite, said in a statement.
The dispute arose after the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of CK Hutchison, offered workers a pay increase of 5 percent. With UK inflation at 9.4 percent in June — and some indicators putting inflation at 13.8 percent in July — Unite labeled the 5 percent offer “an effective pay cut” that followed a below-inflation pay raise of 1.4 percent in 2021.
However, a Port of Felixstowe spokesman said the port had made what it considered “a very fair offer” and was “disappointed with the result of the ballot.”
“Strike action at Felixstowe will inevitably create huge disruption across the UK’s supply chain,” said Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard. “Strike dates have yet to be announced but even at this late stage the dispute could be resolved by the company returning to negotiations and making a realistic offer,” he added. (Photo courtesy of Port of Felixstowe)