Dockworkers at UK’s largest container port have gone on strike for the first time in 30 years. About 1,900 members of the Unite union at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk are walking out for eight days in a dispute over pay.
The staff at Felixstowe, on the east coast of England, are embarking on the industrial action in a dispute over pay, becoming the latest workers to strike in Britain as unions demand higher wages for members facing a cost-of-living crisis.
“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,” said Bobby Morton, the Unite union’s national officer for docks.
“It [the company] has had every opportunity make our members a fair offer but has chosen not to do so.”
Unite said members rejected a 7% pay offer from the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, which it said was below the rate of inflation.A port spokesman said the strike was “disappointing”.
A picket line formed early on Sunday as the strike began, and the union said it would be manned until 22:00 on each day of the walkout.
About 2,550 people work at the Port of Felixstowe – the country’s busiest port, handle about 48% of the UK’s container trade. Striking workers include crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores who load and unload ships.
Port spokesman Paul Davey said the average pay for workers at Felixstowe was £43,000, and employees had been offered a 7% rise plus a single payment of £500 – an offer rejected by the port unions.
He said the offer represented an increase of between 8.1% and 9.6%, depending upon the category of worker at the port, at a time when the average pay increase in the country was 5%.
“We’ve got a shrinking economy, we’re going into recession… I think that’s a very fair offer indeed,” he said.
Major shipping group Maersk warned that it expected the strike to cause serious disruption with some vessels significantly delayed.
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