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Felixstowe Port workers strike over pay [updated]

Port of Felixstowe from the air; it handles half of Britain’s container trade. Photo John Fielding via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Felixstowe’s container port ground to a halt on 21 August. Unite members there walked out on an eight-day strike over pay after voting by over 90 per cent in favour of action.

The port handles nearly half of the shipping containers imported to and exported from Britain. The strike by around 1,900 crane drivers, machine operators, stevedores and others will severely disrupt Britain’s supply chain including the logistics and haulage sector. It will also have a huge impact on international maritime trade.

Unite members rejected an offer of 7 per cent, increased from an initial 5 per cent, plus a £500 cash bonus. That is still well short of current inflation rates. Workers received a paltry 1.4 per cent increase last year.


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

Graham commented that the company’s priority had been to increase dividends rather than paying decent wages and the union was focused on securing a decent pay increase for its members.

“This dispute is of the company’s own making.”

Unite national officer for docks Bobby Morton said, “Strike action will cause huge disruption…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 is the primary deep water port for the UK, used on the routes from Asia operated by most of the major container lines. The dispute highlights the way in which foreign “get-rich-quick” owners have a stranglehold over Britain’s ports and shipping, and the nation’s trade.

Unite points to pre-tax profits of £61 million made by the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company in 2020, when it paid shareholders £99 million in dividends. The parent company is registered in the Cayman Islands and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It has interests in ports all over the world, including Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam. But unlike Felixstowe, that is publicly owned.