Port of Felixstowe: Top-paid Unite union worker on strike 'earned £86,000 in last year'

A man carrying a Unite the Union flag surfs around the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk.
Credit: PA
A man carrying a Unite the Union flag surfs around the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. Credit: PA

The top-paid worker currently on strike at the UK's biggest container port earned more than £86,000 in the last year, port bosses have revealed.

The figures were revealed as the stand-off between management at the Port of Felixstowe and 1,900 members of Unite intensified on the fourth day of an eight-day walkout, with the union warning that disruption could continue until Christmas.

The average earnings of the employees involved in the dispute is £43,000, including overtime, while the majority earned between £31,300 and £52,300. The top-paid worker on strike earned £86,081.32, while the lowest earned £26,109.31, said a port spokesman.

Workers were joined on the picket line on Wednesday by Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who said employees were being asked to take a real-terms pay cut while the port's parent company made millions in profits.

“It’s absolutely totally abhorrent,” said Ms Graham, adding that disruption at the port “is not necessary” and bosses “just need to pay the 10%” increase in wages that the union is requesting for workers.

So far port bosses have offered a 7% rise and a £500 one-off payment, equating to a total rise in the first year of between 8.1% and 9.6%.

Asked whether disruption could continue until Christmas, Ms Graham said: “I think in a sense that’s a question for the employer.”

She added: "Unfortunately, I have to say, if they don’t come back to the table this action will continue, and that’s not good for the public, it certainly isn’t good for these workers and I’d also say it’s not good for the employer.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham speaks to her members on a picket line at one of the entrances to the Port of Felixstowe. Credit: PA

Port workers have previously described how they have been left relying on foodbanks to make ends meet.

Engineer Stefan Long, who was among the striking workers on Wednesday, said: “If we can’t reach an agreement that’s worthwhile even balloting us as the members on, then it’ll go as far as it needs to go.

“People feel so strongly about this, it speaks for itself.”

The 33-year-old, who lives in Ipswich with his wife, said they have had to “readjust our lifestyle” as costs rise, with his energy bill soaring from £80 to £220 per month.

“We’re cutting back on everything, absolutely everything,” he said. “You see the margins shrinking and I feel for those who’ve got husband, wife, two children, three children. How are they going to get by?

“How are they going to feed their children and heat their homes?”

A port spokesperson said: “A lot of our employees feel let down by Unite.

“Many want to work and are angry that they have not been allowed to vote on the latest company offer. Unite say they are a democratic union but their words don’t match their deeds and they are promoting a national agenda at the expense of many of our employees.

“The port has offered a deal worth 8.1% to 9.6% this year. The strike imposed on them by Unite is an effective pay cut of 2.2%.

"Many employees have told us they want to come to work but feel too uncomfortable to do so.”

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