Hundreds of dockworkers at the UK’s biggest port will embark on an eight-day strike later this month after pay hike talks between workers and the terminal operator failed.

UK trade union Unite announced on Friday that 1 900 of its members who work at Felixstowe port would be downing tools for eight days from August 21-29. This comes after talks at the conciliation service, Acas, failed to result in a reasonable offer last week. The union said that the employer, the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, had failed to improve on its offer of a 7% pay increase, which was significantly below the real inflation rate of 11.8%.

Industrial relations have already been strained at the port as workers only received a 1.4% below-inflation increase last year.  The workers undertake all forms of manual labour at the docks and include drivers, machine operators, and stevedores. Further talks were scheduled to take place today.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the employer could afford to improve its pay offer.

“Both Felixstowe docks and its parent company CK Hutchison Holding Ltd are both massively profitable and incredibly wealthy. They are fully able to pay the workforce a fair day’s pay,” Graham said.

“The company has prioritised delivering multimillion pound dividends rather than paying its workers a decent wage. 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.”

Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port and 48% of containers brought into the UK are transported via the port.

Strike action will have a huge effect on the UK’s supply chain, including the logistics and haulage sectors, and will also cause severe disruption to international maritime trade.

The Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company’s most recent accounts show that it made pre-tax profits of £61 million in 2020 and that it paid out £99m in dividends for the same period.

The company’s dividends are paid into a complicated company structure but are principally received by the organisation’s ultimate holding company, CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. It is registered in the Cayman Islands and listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Unite national officer for docks, Bobby Morton, said the strike would cause a major disruption to trade.

“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. It has had every opportunity to make our members a fair offer but has chosen not to do so. Felixstowe needs to stop prevaricating and make a pay offer which meets our members’ expectations,” Morton said

Information courtesy of Freight News by FTW