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Dockers launch eight-day strike in a dispute over pay at Britain’s biggest container port

DOCKERS launched the first of an eight-day strike today at Britain’s biggest container port in Felixstowe.

About 1,900 members of Unite at the town in Suffolk were due to walk out in a dispute over pay in the first strike to hit the port since 1989.

It is the latest outbreak of industrial action to hit a growing number of sectors of the economy.

Crane drivers, machine operators, stevedores and other workers are taking action after voting by more than 9-1 in favour of strikes.

The union said the stoppage will have a big impact on the port, which handles about four million containers a year from 2,000 ships.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Felixstowe docks is enormously profitable. The latest figures show that in 2020 it made £61 million in profits.

“Its parent company, CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, is so wealthy that, in the same year, it handed out £99 million to its shareholders.

“So they can give Felixstowe workers a decent pay raise. It’s clear both companies have prioritised delivering multimillion-pound profits and dividends rather than paying their workers a decent wage.

“Unite is entirely focused on enhancing its members’ jobs, pay and conditions and it will be giving the workers at Felixstowe its complete support until this dispute is resolved and a decent pay increase is secured.”

A port source claimed the strikes will be an “inconvenience, not a catastrophe,” with the supply chain now used to disruption following the pandemic.

“Disruption is the new normal. The supply chain has moved from ‘just in time to just in case’,” he added.

He also suggested that some suppliers of white goods such as fridge freezers might actually welcome a break because of slower sales due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Unite national officer Robert Morton said businesses affected by the strike should press the port’s parent company to return to the negotiating table.

The union official told BBC Breakfast: “Don’t blame us for the action that’s being taken: blame Hutchison ports for the actions they’ve taken in putting 7 per cent on the table and saying that we will meet you again but our position will not change.”

The Port of Felixstowe said in a statement that its offer, worth over 8 per cent on average this year and closer to 10 per cent for lower-paid workers, is fair.

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