Largest UK Port Hit With Massive Strike, Sparking Supply Chain Chaos Fears
At least 2,000 members of the Unite Union at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk began a strike on Sunday morning over contract disputes to boost pay amid the highest inflation in decades.
The industrial action at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container, is alarming due to the possibility that eight planned days of strikes could disrupt already bruised supply chains.
BBC News said Unite members rejected a 7% pay increase from Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company last week, which it said was under the current inflation rate.
From Unite’s regional office, Miles Hubbard said, “very few people reported for work this morning.” He said picket lines were growing Sunday and there was even support from the public.
Almost 2,000 workers have walked out of their jobs at the UK’s largest container port on the first day of an eight-day workers strike.@SkyNewsAdele speaks to Unite’s Senior Regional Organiser Miles Hubbard at Felixstowe
? Sky 501 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/FYyUUrfwB0
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 21, 2022
The country’s busiest port, handling about 48% of all containerized trade, has about 2,550 workers, many of which operate cranes, drive trucks, and load and unload ships. Today’s walk could paralyze the port.
Port spokesman Paul Davey said port workers made on average £43,000 and were offered a 7% increase in pay plus a £500 bonus, calling the offer “very fair.”
But how fair? The latest blistering CPI print hit double-digits at 10.1%, the highest in forty years. So in real terms, the offer by the port for workers was a lousy deal for those struggling with soaring energy inflation.
A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, one of the world’s top container shippers, warned the strike is expected to disrupt trade and delay vessels.
Dr. Kamran Mahroof, associate professor in supply chain analytics at the University of Bradford, added more color on the imminent supply chain disruptions:
“Although a lot of the goods that pass through this particular port might be your fridges and laptops, there will be a lot of frozen goods foods that might also be passing through this channel.
“So there will be disruptions, but the importance here is to ensure that it is limited only for eight days as they say.
“Prolonging this might mean we might have to divert where goods go, but infrastructure might not be able to cope.”
Bloomberg data shows China is one of the top export/import countries through Felixstowe.
With a recession looming, the stoppage at Felixstowe could spark even more havoc for stressed-out supply chains and logistical networks.
Disruption is the new normal in the UK. Londoners faced travel delays this weekend as rail workers, and bus drivers walked off the job, demanding higher pay due to soaring inflation.
Industrial actions are spreading from industry to industry as the worsening cost-of-living crisis sends millions of households into financial turmoil.
Felixstowe’s strike is expected through Aug. 29, but there’s no telling if a speedy resolution is in sight as this is the first strike for the port in three decades.