The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container gateway, handling more than 4 million TEU each year. More than 1,900 workers at the port began an eight-day massive strike on August 21, prompting industry concerns that the port crisis could last for several months until Christmas.
As of Friday, the port had not reached an agreement with port operator Hutchison Ports.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the United union representing striking workers, said the strike could continue until the end of the year if port operator Felixstowe Docks and Rail, owned by Hutchison Ports UK Ltd, did not increase its offer.
During negotiations on August 8, the terminal proposed a 7% wage increase and a one-time payment of 500 pounds (approximately 600 euros or $600), but the union rejected this solution.
Speaking to striking dockworkers, Sharon Graham said: “The Port of Felixstowe makes enough money that it can pay 50 per cent more and still make a profit. The pay rise we are asking for is only 10 per cent.”
In the announcement on August 23, Sharon Graham pointed out: “In 2021, the Port of Felixstowe accounts show that profits are the highest in the company’s recent history, and there are also generous dividends. But this is a big bonus for shareholders, For workers, it’s a pay cut.”
The strike, the first at Felixstowe since 1989, will delay ships arriving at the port and cause disruption to supply chains. According to the latest report from global information technology company IQAX, 18 ships have been delayed due to strikes so far.
In addition, Maersk also announced that the strike has affected its logistics business within and outside the UK. “Our contingency measures are in place to deal with the situation at Felixstowe and we are making adjustments to our ship lineup to maximize the use of available labor in the immediate aftermath of the strike,” Maersk said.
Another shipping company said that once the strike ends, the shipping company is expected to increase freight rates and encourage customers to book space as soon as possible.
Some freight forwarders said that some goods during peak seasons such as Christmas and Black Friday are gradually preparing to enter the port. The strike at this time will affect the unloading and delivery time of Christmas goods in the UK.
At the same time, another port, Liverpool, was preparing to start similar protests. The country has also been hit by strike action in many other industries including railways, postal services and telecommunications.
CMA CGM said: “A date for the strike has not yet been announced. However, the team is doing its best to develop suitable contingency plans to provide the most reliable service possible during the disruption. We are working hard to provide alternative solutions through other UK ports and will Continue to provide door-to-door service.”