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Second strike date set for Felixstowe

Workers will walk out for eight days from September 27 despite pay offer being implemented

Talks have broken down between Felixstowe’s port operator and the union Unite. New industrial action will coincide with strike at Liverpool and bring greater disruption to UK supply chains

A SECOND eight-day strike has been announced at the port of Felixstowe after negotiations between the port’s operator and the union Unite collapsed.

“Last week the management at the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Co unilaterally ended pay talks after refusing to improve its pay offer and instead announced that it was imposing a pay deal of 7% on the workforce,” Unite said.

“The imposed pay deal is in reality a sizeable pay cut with the current real inflation rate standing at 12.3%.”

Hutchison-owned Felixstowe confirmed it had received notice of the strike, which will start on September 27 and run until October 5.

“We are very disappointed that Unite has announced this further strike action at this time,” the port said.

“The collective bargaining process has been exhausted and there is no prospect of agreement being reached with the union.”

The union said the 7% plus £500 offer had been put to its 1,900 members, with 82% of a 78% turnout rejecting the deal.

“Felixstowe and CK Hutchison are both eye-wateringly wealthy but rather than offer a fair pay offer, they have instead attempted to impose a real terms pay cut on their workers,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

Unite said the company was “fully able to pay its workers a fair pay increase” as its accounts for 2021 showed that it made record profits of £79m and the latest accounts for parent company CK Hutchison revealed a turnover of £30bn.

Unite national officer for docks Bobby Morton said the latest action was “entirely of Felixstowe’s own making”.

“Rather than seeking to negotiate a deal to resolve the dispute, the company instead tried to impose a pay deal,” he said.

Felixstowe, however, appears to be digging in with the hope that the 35% of workers who either voted against the strike or abstained from voting will increase in number. By going ahead with the pay offer, the amount of earnings lost to strike action increases for staff who down tools.

But Unite is also playing a strategic game. The eight-day strikes cover two full shift patterns at the port so the pain is shared by all workers.

Moreover, a series of rolling strikes will have a greater impact by adding uncertainty to the port’s operations.

Speaking to Lloyd’s List about the prospect of strike in Liverpool, which will overlap the second strike at Felixstowe, Atlantic Container Line chief executive Andy Abbott warned that even scheduled strikes were hard to plan for as port congestion elsewhere meant scheduled vessels may end up arriving during a strike period.

The new strike at Felixstowe is set to cause further upset in UK supply chains as the port is responsible for almost half the UK container handling.

Freight forwarder Zencargo has even suggested that shippers should start preparing a “strike strategy” to cater for such events.

“The ongoing disruption, congestion and workload stemming from the pandemic, combined with the rising cost of living has created tensions among transport workers, and it is likely we’ve not seen the last of such activity,” it said.

“One potential answer is route diversification, moving agilely between destinations according to risk and cost analysis. Analysing lead time data and inventory levels, shippers could model various route options and find the best, or least-bad, solution. However, this will require access to robust internal and supplier data.”

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