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Montevideo, October 3rd 2023 - 04:05 UTC



While Tories look for a leader, UK hit by strikes: Felixstowe closed for eight days

Monday, August 22nd 2022 - 09:27 UTC
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Almost half the container freight entering the UK goes in through Felixstowe in Suffolk, eastern England Almost half the container freight entering the UK goes in through Felixstowe in Suffolk, eastern England

On September 5, hopefully the conservative party will have a new leader and the British government should be back on track, leaving aside Boris Johnson. However, in the meantime prices of food and energy have soared and the country is under stress from a raft of industrial actions, the latest of which Felixstowe, Britain's largest container port, with staff walking out of their jobs for an 8-day strike on Sunday demanding better pay to meet the cost of living.

The Unite union behind the Felixstowe Port strike failed to reach an agreement with the parent company operating the port, Hutchison Ports. Workers went ahead instead with their strike, scheduled to last until August 29.

Almost half the container freight entering the UK goes in through Felixstowe in Suffolk, eastern England. A strike that surpasses one week could force the diversion of vessels to alternative ports in the UK, or in Europe.

“Strike action will cause huge disruption and will generate massive shockwaves throughout the UK's supply chain, but this dispute is entirely of the company's own making,” Bobby Morton, the Unite union's national officer for docks, said in a Unite statement announcing the strike earlier this month.

The 8-day strike comes as public transport workers on the rail and bus networks continue to execute highly disruptive actions pushing for better pay, to counter rising inflation.

The Unite union has accused the Hutchison Ports operating company of prioritizing profits over fair pay. “We're being told to accept a real terms pay cut whilst bosses and shareholders are taking record profits for themselves,” said Sharon Graham, the union's secretary general, on Twitter.

Hutchison Ports had offered the workers what it described as a “fair” settlement deal; a 7% pay rise and a single payment of 500 British pounds.

Originally it said that the port's trade union had accepted the deal. The said union represents some 500 staff who work in supervisor and engineering roles. That is separate from the Unite union, which mostly represents dock workers. The latter refused the settlement deal, saying it was significantly lower than the current inflation rate in the country.

A Hutchison Ports spokesperson said that the port “regrets” the impact of the strike on UK supply chains. The Felixstowe Port handles some 4 million containers annually, from around 2,000 ships. It is the first strike at the port since 1989.

The heart of the matter is that inflation has risen in a way western economies have not seen for the last four decades.

On Saturday, only about one in five trains in UK were working amid a rail strike which left some areas entirely unserved. There was also strike action confined to the capital London on Thursday and Friday preceding the nationwide rail strike.

Further strikes in various industries, including postal workers, garbage collectors, lawyers and staff at telecommunications giant BT, are scheduled for later this month.

Categories: Politics, International.

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