Felixstowe Schedules Second Strike to Overlap with Liverpool Strike
Workers at the Port of Felixstowe in the UK scheduled their second strike for late September timed to overlap with a planned strike at the Port of Liverpool. The coordinated strikes are proceeding as negotiations between the ports’ operators and Unite the union broke off deadlocked over the scale of wage increases for more than 2,500 workers between the two ports.
“The collective bargaining process has been exhausted and there is no prospect of an agreement being reached with the union,” said the Port of Flexistowe, which is operated by a UK division of CK Hutchison. Based on its belief that the negotiating process is at an impasse even after mediation, the port reports that “it is in the process of implementing the 2022 pay award of 7 percent plus £500 (approximately $575) which is backdated to January 1, 2022.”
Unite responded by reporting that 82 percent of its members have authorized the second strike for the Port of Felixstowe, following an action in late August that brought the country’s busiest container port to a standstill. Felixstowe handles nearly half the UK’s container volume and shipping lines attempted to wait out the strike or blanked scheduled stops during the week.
The first strike led to estimates of $800 million or more in lost trade with predictions that the effects of the strike could be felt for months. CNBC cited data based on a trade data analysis by MDS Transmodal reporting that the total value of containers impacted by the eight-day strike was estimated at roughly $4.7 billion.
“Further strike action will inevitably lead to delays and disruption to the UK’s supply chain but this is entirely of the company’s own making,” said Unite national officer for docks Bobby Morton. “Rather than seeking to negotiate a deal to resolve the dispute, the company instead tried to impose a pay deal.”
The union is demanding pay raises in keeping with the UK’s current rate of retail inflation which has been measured at approximately 11 to 12 percent. Some economists have said the UK’s inflation rate could reach 20 percent in the coming winter as the country struggled to replace Russian energy supplies.
The new 8-day strike at Felixstowe is scheduled to start at 07:00 on Tuesday, September 27 running until 06:59 on Wednesday, October 5. The timing overlaps with a two-week strike previously announced for the Port of Liverpool, which is operated by a separate company, Peel Ports, which is also in a pay dispute with Unite. The union at the beginning of September announced that more than 560 port operatives and maintenance engineers for Liverpool had voted for a strike scheduled for September 19 to October 3. The strike however has been delayed to start on September 20 not to overlap with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
Peel Ports’ attempts at reaching an agreement with the union also appeared to collapse yesterday when union members voted to reject the latest offer. Peel reports it was also offering a 7 percent increase plus a one-time payment of £750 (approximately $860). Peel is urging the union to return to the negotiations.
The ports are just part of a continuing wave of strikes that have plagued the UK over the past few weeks. Railway unions suspended their current job actions during the UK’s official 10 days of mourning for the Queen, but are expected to resume actions later in the month. Even employees of the Royal Mail have scheduled a two-day strike for the end of the month. The continuing labor unrest and the problems it is causing in the UK is one of the primary issues facing Liz Truss, the UK’s new prime minister.