Good times never seemed so good! Conga-dancing Felixstowe dockworkers on strike belt Sweet Caroline as they party on picket line amid mass walkout from UK’s biggest container port (and risk ruining YOUR Christmas)
- Tone-deaf conga-dancing dockworkers belted UK’s unofficial party anthem Sweet Caroline on picket lines
- Around 1,900 members of Unite union are striking at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk for eight days
- Felixstowe handles nearly half of containerised freight entering the UK – more than four million every year
- Strike action likely to disrupt £700m of trade and will have direct impact on likes of Asda, John Lewis and M&S
Tone-deaf conga-dancing dockworkers belted Britain’s unofficial party anthem Sweet Caroline on picket lines – all while ‘playing chicken’ with the Christmas plans of millions of households by staging an eight-day walkout at the Port of Felixstowe for more pay.
Militant unions are seeking to plunge the UK supply chain into anarchy and disrupt an estimated £700million of trade by galvanising around 1,900 Unite members to go on strike.
There are fears that the mass walkouts – which come amid soaring 10% inflation and fears it could surge past 18% next year – will cause shipping chaos at Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest container port, and lead to shop and supermarket shortages through to Christmas.
However, experts have warned that shortages could put pressure on the price of goods and fuel already-rampant cost increases – perhaps even sending it through the roof by the winter – as Britons face the biggest squeeze to their living standards in 60 years.
The strike began this week and will end on Monday, August 29. Manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and JCB are also likely to be affected due to delays bringing in parts and exporting goods.
As a result of the industrial action, Maersk, one of the world’s largest container shipping groups, has already diverted three ships to alternative ports in Europe – and fears are growing that Britain could miss out on even more shipping to the Continent.
The firm is monitoring a further 11 vessels that could be affected by the strikes. But a port source said the strikes will be an ‘inconvenience not a catastrophe’, claiming that the supply chain was used to disruption following the pandemic.
It is the latest outbreak of industrial action to hit a growing number of sectors of the economy, as rail workers go on strike and teachers and NHS staff threaten mass walkouts unless they can secure higher pay amid the cost of living crisis – a demand which Boris Johnson’s Government fears could trigger a wage-inflation spiral that would hurt households even more.
Felixstowe dockworkers wave red Unite the Union flags and raise their fists on the picket line yesterday
Dockworkers wave Unite flags and carry cups of coffee from McDonald’s as they go on strike at Felixstowe
Striking dockworkers were pictured doing the conga on the picket line on the second day of their walkout
Striking dock workers are pictured outside the port of Felixstowe on Monday morning
A container lorry passes strikers as it arrives at an entrance to the UK’s biggest container port Felixstowe
A shopper browses an empty aisle amid warnings that strike action at Felixstowe is set to disrupt £700m worth of trade
hipping containers and empty lorry loading area are seen at the port of Felixstowe, where an eight-day strike is taking place
Maersk, one of the world’s largest container shipping groups, has already diverted three ships to alternative ports in Europe
Union bosses say will send ‘massive shockwaves’ through the UK’s supply chain
Dockers protest near the main gate of Felixstowe Port on Sunday amid an eight-day strike
A series of strikes or ballots for industrial action are being announced as workers across the country seek pay rises in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
Criminal barristers in England and Wales voted in favour of indefinite and uninterrupted strike in a row with the Government over jobs and pay, which is due to start on September 5.
Friday is set to be the last working day for barristers before they walk out on August 30.
It comes as an eight-day strike at the UK’s biggest container port by members of Unite at Felixstowe, Suffolk, in a dispute over pay entered its second day.
Here are some of the upcoming strikes and potential disputes stretching into the autumn in what the unions have described it as a ‘summer of solidarity’ amid worsening industrial relations:
– The National Education Union says it will ballot members this autumn over ‘the attacks on teacher pay’, adding that ‘teachers won’t accept the biggest real-terms pay cut in living memory’.
– August 18 to 30 August: Strike by Unite and GMB members over pay affecting waste, recycling and street cleaning services in Edinburgh.
– August 21: Unite members at the Port of Felixstowe start an eight-day strike over pay.
– August 26 and 31: Royal Mail workers in the Communication Workers Union strike over pay.
– September 5: Barristers in England and Wales set to start an indefinite strike after voting to step up their current bi-weekly walkouts over Government-set fees for legal aid work.
– September 8 and 9: Royal Mail workers in the Communication Workers Union to strike again over pay.
– September 11: A strike ballot of Unite’s NHS members in England closes.
– September 15: A strike ballot of Royal College of Nursing members opens.
– September 16: A strike ballot of Unite’s NHS members in Wales closes.
– September 26: A national strike ballot opens for Public and Commercial Services union members over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms.
It came as Unite official Robert Morton said ‘the supply chain will be severely disrupted’ by the eight-day strike – and warned there ‘will be more strikes’ if his members’ pay demands are not met.
On Monday, the second day of industrial action at the port, Mr Morton said Unite wants an improved pay offer in line with at ‘least the rate of inflation’, suggesting a figure between ‘7% and 12.3%
Paul Davey, head of corporate affairs at the Port of Felixstowe, stressed there is a ‘7% plus £500’ offer on the table, and has urged Unite to let its members vote on it.
Mr Morton told Sky News that he accepts the supply chain will be ‘severely disrupted’, but added the dispute ‘could be over’ now if the Port of Felixstowe meets them for ‘real-time negotiations’.
He said: ‘The supply chain will be severely disrupted, I accept that. That’s one of the unfortunate parts of things like this.
‘It could be over this afternoon if the employer agreed to meet us for real-time negotiations.
‘The last message they [the Port of Felixstowe] 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.’
He acknowledged that the union has not put the employer’s offer to its members, but added: ‘At the beginning of the negotiations we asked them what they wanted and they said, ‘we want you to go and negotiate and come back with at least the rate of inflation. If it’s anything less than that, then don’t bring it back’.
‘So when we get further up the negotiations, perhaps we will put an offer to them, but it certainly won’t be at 7%.’
Workers including crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores are taking action after voting by more than 9-1 in favour of strikes.
The union said the strike will have a significant impact on the port, which handles around four million containers a year from 2,000 ships.
But a port source previously suggested the strikes will be an ‘inconvenience not a catastrophe’, claiming the supply chain is now used to disruption following the pandemic.
Mr Morton added: ‘We’ve been asking for a minimum of the rate of inflation. The RPI at the moment is at (12.3%).
‘However, if we can sit down and thrash this out, there will be a figure between 7% and 12.3% that’s acceptable to my membership.’
But Mr Davey told Sky News: ‘These negotiations have been going on for a long time now.
‘The offer that was on the table at the time they voted to strike was 5% plus £500. It’s now 7% plus £500.
‘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.’
‘Empty shelves at Christmas’: The impact of an eight-day strike at Port of Felixstowe
Felixstowe handles nearly half of the containerised freight entering the country and the eight-day strike action could cause vessels to be diverted to ports elsewhere in the UK or Europe.
The port is the UK’s largest and is favoured due to its close proximity to the main European shipping lanes. It handles more than four million containers every year and operates 17 shipping lanes.
But strike action is likely to disrupt £700m worth of trade and will have a direct impact on brands such as Asda, John Lewis, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, The Times reports.
Manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and JCB are also likely to be affected due to delays bringing in parts and exporting goods.
As a result of the industrial action, Maersk, one of the world’s largest container shipping groups, has already diverted three ships to alternative ports in Europe.
The port source who downplayed the impact of the strikes claimed the supply chain is now used to disruption following the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Disruption is the new normal. The supply chain has moved from ‘just in time to just in case’,’ they said.
Clothing and electronics are understood to be most at risk with warnings of a ‘ripple effect across the economy’.
Union members voted to strike despite the Port of Felixstowe saying it offered workers an 8% pay rise on average with those on lower salaries getting almost 10%.
Management claimed Unite did not consult the 1,900 employees on the offer of a pay deal and instead balloted them on the first industrial action to hit the port since 1989.
Unite says the owner of the port, which made £61million in profit in 2020, can afford to pay more than the 7% pay increase it is currently offering and claims the strike will have a big impact on day-to-day operations.
Unite’s Mr Morton earlier told the BBC: ‘Strike action will cause huge disruption… throughout the UK’s supply chain, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.’
‘Blame [operator] Hutchison Ports for the actions they’ve taken in putting [this pay rise] on the table.’
But the Port of Felixstowe hit back at the union saying it was ‘disappointed’ that it ‘has not taken up our offer’ to come back to the table.
A spokesman said: ‘We recognise these are difficult times but, in a slowing economy, we believe that the company’s offer, worth over 8% on average in the current year and closer to 10% for lower paid workers, is fair.
‘Unite has failed our employees by not consulting them on the offer and, as a result, they have been put in a position where they will lose pay by going on strike.
‘The port regrets the impact this action will have on UK supply chains.’ Unite, which represents mainly dock workers, says the proposal is significantly below the current inflation rate, and followed a below inflation increase last year.
Felixstowe handles nearly half of the containerised freight entering the country and the action could mean vessels have to be diverted.
Members of Unite on the picket line on Sunday morning. The union says the port’s owners can afford to give them more than an 8% pay rise
Nearly 2,000 workers have gone on strike at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk in a dispute over pay
A shopper looks at the empty shelves of Christmas Turkey in Sainsbury’s supermarket in north London amid warnings of shortages this winter
Around half of the UK’s standard-sized containers move through the Suffolk port every single year
The Suffolk port’s operator, Hutchison Ports, claimed its workers’ union, which represents about 500 staff, had accepted their deal.
It has put in place a contingency plan for this week but there are fears this action could be just the start.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham vowed: ‘I will be with our members every step of the way, for as long as it takes.’
The militant leader who has held over 450 strikes at a cost of £150million to employers in just one year fired off a series of bellicose tweets.
She said the docks ‘can well afford to give a decent pay rise and Unite will back workers’.
It comes after RMT hardliner Mick Lynch called for a general strike if Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister and brings in legislation to halt strikes affecting the country.
The Foreign Secretary has pledged to ensure ‘militant action’ from trade unions can no longer ‘paralyse’ the economy if she wins the Tory leadership contest.
But Mr Lynch told the i newspaper that ‘coordinated and synchronised industrial action’ would be needed if legislation is brought in.
He went on to say the ‘very dangerous situation’ risks taking the country back to ‘Victorian times’.
A general strike, which can only be called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is when a ‘substantial proportion’ of workers in multiple sectors refuse to work until their demands, usually around pay and working conditions, are met.
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