Fears grow as Felixstowe strike hits trade

As the UK’s largest container port enters the third day of an eight day strike there are warnings over the impact on the country’s supply chain.

Over 1,900 members of  the Unite union, employed in manual roles at the Port of Felixstowe including crane drivers, tug boat operatives and stevedores began eight days of strike action in a dispute over pay, with shipping firms scrambling to find other berths for their vessels.

The Union’s leader has described the port owner’s claims they cannot afford an increased pay offer as ‘crocodile tears’, as the dispute shows no sign of reaching an agreement.

Sharon Graham says the port operator is prioritising profits and dividends instead of pay.

Graham said: “Felixstowe Docks and its associated companies have been prioritising profits and dividends instead of giving their workers a decent share of the pie .

“Instead the  company is siphoning off tens of millions of pounds offshore to its Hong Kong-based parent company, almost every year. So Hong Kong shareholders are getting a bonanza pay-out while the company weeps ‘crocodile tears’ claiming that they can’t pay a decent pay rise here and essentially asking workers to accept a pay cut .’

“The workers at Felixstowe have Unite’s  full backing until this dispute is resolved.”

Analysts are warning the knock on effect of the strike will last for months.

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown explained: “The Port of Felixstowe is an essential lynchpin in the UK’s trade operations, and an eight-day strike is likely to result in interrupted supplies for supermarkets as well as exports. It’s a possibility that industrial action could march on through to Christmas, too.”

“This is the latest unwanted twist in our weekly food shops, with high prices already making the experience more difficult for many shoppers,” she added. “From an economic standpoint, a disruption to trade is the last thing the UK needs right now. There are already far-reaching productivity problems which keep a lid on economic growth, with an avoidable blip such as port strikes adding insult to an existing injury.”