Port of Felixstowe strike will 'severely disrupt' supply chains, Unite union warns

  • Video report by ITV News Anglia's Callum Fairhurst

A union official has warned that an eight-day strike at the UK's biggest container port will "severely disrupt" the supply chain of goods coming in and out of the country.

Around 1,900 members of the Unite union based at Felixstowe Port in Suffolk walked out on Sunday in an ongoing dispute over pay.

The industrial action is the first of its kind at the port since 1989.

Workers, including crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores, have been offered a 7% pay rise and a lump sum of £500 according to Paul Davey, the head of corporate affairs at the port.

Mr Davey has urged Unite to let its members vote on that proposal, but Unite national officer Robert Morton has called for an improved offer in line with at "least the rate of inflation".

Members of the Unite union on the picket line at the port on Sunday. Credit: PA

Union members voted by more than 9-1 in favour of strikes.

"The supply chain will be severely disrupted, I accept that. That's one of the unfortunate parts of things like this," Mr Morton told Sky News.

"It could be over this afternoon if the employer agreed to meet us for real-time negotiations.

"The last message they gave to us is that 'yes, we will meet you, but no, we will not move our position one inch'. That's the wrong approach."

Felixstowe handles around four million containers a year from 2,000 ships, and is responsible for 48% of the UK's container trade.

The union insist that the strike will have a significant impact, but a port source previously argued that the action be an "inconvenience, not a catastrophe" because the supply chain is now used to disruption following the pandemic.

Felixstowe is the UK's biggest port. Credit: PA

Mr Morton has suggested that a pay rise figure between "7% and 12.3%" would be acceptable for union members, but Mr Davey has indicated that the current offer on the table is a fair one.

"The offer that was on the table at the time they voted to strike was 5% plus £500. It's now 7% plus £500," said Mr Davey.

"We have moved considerably during the course of the negotiations. Unite started the negotiations asking for 10% and they ended them asking for 10%.

"There's only one party here that's tried to find a deal. What I suggest (Unite) should do is ask their members about this. The members this part of Unite represent have not had a chance to vote on the deal."

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