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Port of Felixstowe strikes

An eight-day strike over pay by workers at the Port of Felixstowe is set to cause major supply chain disruption.

The industrial action – by some 1,900 members of the Unite union – is the first for over 30 years, and has come about after a  7% pay rise was rejected, as reported previously by the IOE&IT’s Daily Update.

Felixstowe’s container port is the largest in the UK and is responsible for almost half of the containers arriving to Britain. Those going on strike include crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores, according to The Guardian.

The strike is expected to last until Bank Holiday Monday, 29 August.

Container trade

According to the FT, the port handles around four million containers a year – which means as much as $800 million of trade could be affected by the walkout.

Analytics company The Russell Group suggests the worst sectors facing the strongest to be hit will be clothing and electronics.

Shipping giant Maersk has already pre-empted a response to the action, by diverting three ships away from the port to other northern European destinations and monitoring another 11 vessels that could be affected.

The Guardian reports that the strikes may cause other ships to be diverted to different UK or European ports.

‘Severe disruption’

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

The Telegraph also reports that the impact could be much longer than the initial strike period.

Flexport, an online freight platform said it could take up to 24 days for the port to clear the backlog which would be a “potentially major disruption” in the run-up to Christmas.

Limited impact

However, other experts have played down its impact.

Logistics UK spokeswoman, Natalie Chapman, said the strike was “unlikely to have a noticeable impact on consumers” because most of the freight that supplies retailers moves through the Port of Dover.

Pay offer

According to maritime website Ships and Ports, Port of Felixstowe spokesman Paul Davey said that employees had been offered a 7% rise plus a single payment of £500.

He argued the offer represented an increase of between 8.1% and 9.6%, depending upon the category of worker at the port. This compares to the average UK pay rise of 5%.

Other strikes

The industrial action by Felixstowe workers is not an isolated one.

As reported by the IOE&IT’s Daily Update, 500 stevedores at Britain’s fourth largest port – the Port of Liverpool – also voted to strike over pay last week.

Terminals in Antwerp are operating at reduced capacity in order to avoid being hit by a national strike paralysing Belgian transport networks, whilst several key German ports faced industrial action last week, according to Shipping Watch.