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Felixstowe port awaits strike as workers fail to reach an agreement

The Unite union and the corporation that administers Felixstowe port failed to reach an agreement to end the planned eight-day strike by dock workers at Britain’s largest container port.

Negotiations ended despite the company’s fresh offer of a £500 bonus for each of the 1,900 dock employees who had already voted in favour of strike action between August 21 and August 29 in response to a salary dispute with the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company.

The port is a major hub for imports and some exports from the United Kingdom, accounting for nearly half of the country’s container flows.

According to the union which represents nearly 2,000 dock workers and has threatened a total shutdown of the port, the walkouts will have a “huge effect” on supply chains and cause severe disruption to international maritime trade.

Following recent negotiations at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service between the corporation and unions, the Hong Kong-owned port offered workers a £500 lump sum in addition to its prior offer of a 7% salary increase.

There will be no further meetings before the eight-day strike begins on August 21, and shipping lines will reschedule calls at the port, with some carriers considering bringing ships in earlier to discharge UK imports.

“We are disappointed and regret that, despite our best efforts, we have still been unable to reach an agreement with the hourly branch of Unite,” said a port authority spokesman.

“During yesterday’s talks, the port improved its position even further, offering a £500 lump sum in addition to a 7% salary increase.”

“The Unite staff branch and the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company Police Federation have agreed to make a similar offer to their members.”

“By contrast, Unite’s hourly branch has once again rejected the port’s improved position and refused to put it to its members.”

“We urge them to consult their members as soon as possible on the latest offer.” 

There will be no winners from a strike that will only result in their members losing money that they would have earned otherwise.

Unite national officer Robert Morton stated that the strike would go ahead unless the company makes an acceptable offer to union members.

“It [Hutchison Ports] can afford to put forward a reasonable pay offer to our members, but has once again chosen not to,” he added.

Unite has emphasised the port’s profitability and decision to pay multimillion-pound dividends to shareholders. According to its most recent financial statements, Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company made a pre-tax profit of nearly £61 million in 2020.

Unite has not stated what constitutes a “reasonable pay offer,” but in previous communications, it stated that the port’s 7% was “fairly far away” from its members’ aspirations, and would even be an “effective pay cut,” given that retail price index inflation was 11.9%.

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