UK's largest container port set to come to a 'standstill' due to strikes after Unite backs action
A union has revealed plans for a strike next month that it says will bring operations at the UK's largest container port to a "standstill". Unite made the threat while revealing the results of a ballot among its members at Felixstowe, ultimately employed by international ports operator CK Hutchison. The union said workers backed industrial action over pay by 92% on an 81% turnout.
"The dispute is a result of the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company offering a pay increase of just 5% to its workers," Unite said. "This is an effective pay cut, with the real (RPI) rate of inflation currently standing at 11.9%.
"Last year, the workforce received a below inflation pay increase of 1.4%". The proposed action, which Unite expected would begin next month without substantial progress in resolving the dispute, is part of a wider union campaign for wage settlements to protect their members from the cost of living crisis.
Felixstowe was yet to comment, but the prospect of halts to operations would have devastating effects for the UK supply chain, as it handles almost half the country's container traffic. It is also no stranger to disruption, as backlogs set in ahead of Christmas last year because of a shortage of HGV drivers. Hong-Kong-based CK Hutchison is one of the world's leading container terminal and port service operators. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "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 £100m. "Unite is focused on defending the jobs, pay, and conditions of its members, and we will be giving 100% support to our members at Felixstowe.
"Workers should not be paying the price for the pandemic with a pay cut. "Unite has undertaken 360 disputes in a matter of months, and we will do all in our power to defend workers." No specific dates for the proposed action have been announced.