UK's biggest container port Felixstowe to be hit by eight days of strikes

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Almost 2,000 dock workers at Britain’s biggest container ship port plan to strike for eight days this month after failing to reach a pay deal, threatening to sever one of the UK’s most important trade routes.

Workers at Felixstowe will strike Aug 21 to Aug 29, the Unite union said in a statement Friday(Aug 5).

Talks failed after the port, owned by a unit of CK Hutchison Holdings, didn’t improve its offer of a 7 per cent pay increase, the labour group said.

Felixstowe, northeast of London, is a key hub for imports as well as some exports from the United Kingdom, and accounts for nearly half the country’s container trade.

The strikes will have a “huge effect” on supply chains and cause severe disruption to international maritime trade, according to the union, which is vowing a full shutdown of the port.

If the strikes go ahead, they’ll worsen what’s been called the UK’s summer of discontent, which has already seen railway workers walk out on multiple occasions while airports and airlines reel from staffing shortages and labour woes, resulting in mass cancellations of flights.

“We are concerned about the risk of ships opting to bypass Felixstowe altogether during the strike and beyond if a backlog develop,” an FDF spokesperson said in an email.

The situation could worsen if goods are re-routed to other European ports, such as Rotterdam, the spokesperson added: “This would present logistical challenges and potentially significant added costs and bureaucracy to bring those goods to the UK.”

Separately on Friday, drivers for one of London’s bus franchise operators said they would strike over pay on Aug 19 and 20, dates that coincide with previously announced walkouts by London Underground workers.

About 1,600 drivers for London United, owned by France’s RATP, will strike after being offered a pay increase of 3.6 per cent, the Unite union said.

London United mainly operates bus routes in west and southwest London.

A shortage of truck drivers and global shipping logjams last year caused supply-chain disruptions at Felixstowe ahead of the busy Christmas shopping season, with some container ships diverted to other ports.

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