Felixstowe Dockers Begin An Eight-Day Strike!

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London dockers on the TUC march to parliament on June 18th – Felixtowe dockers began their 8-day strike yesterday

DOCK workers at the UK’s largest container port yesterday began an eight-day strike, for the first time in 30 years.

About 1,900 members of the Unite union at Felixstowe in Suffolk walked out in a dispute over pay.

Unite said members rejected a below inflation 7% pay offer from the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company.

A picket line formed early yesterday morning and the union said it would be manned until 22:00 on each day of the walkout.

Unite regional official Miles Hubbard said: ‘Very few people reported for work this morning.

‘The picket line has been in place since 6am and we’re getting great support from the public.’

The strike is set to have a big impact.

About 2,550 people work at the Port of Felixstowe, which is the country’s busiest port, handling about 48% of the UK’s container trade.

Ahead of the strike, port spokesman Paul Davey said workers had been offered 7% plus a single payment of £500.

He claimed the offer represented ‘an increase of between 8.1% and 9.6%, depending upon the category of worker at the port’.

He complained: ‘We’ve got a shrinking economy, we’re going into recession – as a country I think that’s a very fair offer indeed.’

Meanwhile, haulage company Turners of Soham, in Cambridgeshire, moves about 500 containers out of the port every day.

Turners boss Paul Day said: ‘About 30% of our business is at Felixstowe, so it’s going to have a huge impact.’

Haydyn Rowlandson, traffic operator for Openultra haulage company, based in Felixstowe, says collecting deliveries from other ports would mean additional costs for customers.

He said: ‘Vessels are being diverted to ports such as Southampton but, clearly, if we have to go there, it significantly changes the rate of the job.

‘One collection would cost hundreds of pounds more as there is extra wear and tear, the additional fuel and driver hours.’

Strike action at the port is expected to last until Monday 29 August.

Referring to the port staff who had accepted the offer, a Unite spokesperson said: ‘This group of members have the right to accept the offer from the company but Unite’s dockers want to press for 10%.’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Felixstowe docks is enormously profitable. The latest figures show that in 2020 it made £61m in profits. 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. So they should do so. It’s clear both companies have prioritised delivering multi-million pound profits and dividends rather than paying their workers a decent wage.’

She added: ‘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.’