Workers At The UK’s Largest Container Port Felixstowe Go On Strike Over Pay

Workers at the biggest container port in the UK have decided to go on a strike. Such an incident has happened for the first time since 1989. Shipping firms and union leaders have warned that the actions could heavily impact the supply chains and also leave buyers waiting for their necessary goods and other commodities.

Nearly 1,900 members of the Unite at Felixstowe have reportedly walked out in a dispute regarding pay in the most recent outbreak of industrial action to hit some sectors of the economy.

Workers, including machine operators, crane drivers, and stevedores will take action after voting by more than nine to one in favor of strikes. The union said that the eight-day halt is likely to have a significant impact on the port that typically handles almost 4m containers in one year from about 2,000 ships.

Worker Strike
Image for representation purpose only

The strike is the most recent industrial action to hit the UK economy amid widespread disruptions to bus and rail services over the weekend as transport workers seek improved pay and other conditions. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis, that has seen the price of energy and food bills soar, indicates that workers associated with different sectors are fighting for their salary hikes.

Felixstowe handles about half of the containerized freight that enters the country and the actions could indicate that vessels have to be diverted to ports in other places in Europe or the UK.

A spokesperson associated with Logistics UK mentioned that Felixstowe does not handle “just-in-time goods”, like food, but instead deals with products like furniture and car parts. However, shipping companies may be compelled to change routes, and other ports – like Teesside and Southampton – may be used for offloading goods, they mentioned.

The spokesperson mentioned that at this stage we have not got grave concerns. All our operators are planning on choosing alternative routes.

Haulage majors have warned that the strike could have a serious impact on business, while trade organizations have said that the consumers could be affected by price increases.

Adam Searle, the MD of CP Transport, mentioned that his company could lose almost £60,000 to £70,000 if it fails to move the containers this week.

All through Suffolk, the bill could run into millions and all over the country a lot more he informed the BBC.

It is not going to impact the food supply chains as all fresh produces are in stock, but it will impact the supply chain in terms of fences, furniture, and bits and bobs.

Maersk, one of the largest container shippers in the world, has said that the strike may cause delays and force it to make changes to its vessel lineup, per Reuters.

In the meantime, consumers may be hit with price hikes and shortages of some products, James Hookham, Global Shippers Forum’s Director, informed the broadcaster.

Consumer prices are already rising owing to the increases in the shipping rates experienced since the middle of 2020. Further disruptions in the UK are going to add to the cost pressures, even though the temporary unavailability of some commodities may be the first noticeable impact on the consumers.

However, a port source mentioned that the strikes would turn out to be an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe, stating that the supply chain was used to disrupt after the pandemic.

He added that disruption is the new normal in today’s times. The supply chain has moved from its earlier just-in-time to just-in-case model.

He suggested that some of the suppliers of white products such as fridge freezers might welcome this break due to slower sales owing to the crisis associated with the cost of living.

The Port of Felixstowe reportedly mentioned in its statement that the company is disappointed that Unite hasn’t taken up their offer to call the strike off and come to the table for some constructive discussions to come to a resolution.

The statement mentioned that it is recognized that these are difficult times, but, in any slowing economy, the company’s offer, worth more than 8% on average this year and closer to about 10% for the relatively lower-paid employees, is fair.

References: Express, The Island Online, The Globe And Mail, The Guardian, DW

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