Dock workers go on strike at UK’s largest port

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Workers at the U.K.’s largest port went on strike on Sunday in a move that is likely to exacerbate disruption to British trade, already battling industrial action across multiple sectors including transport, manufacturing and retail.

A total of 1,900 port staff at Felixstowe have walked out on the first day of an eight-day strike. The port handles more than 4 million containers a year and can accommodate the largest cargo ships in operation. It provides services to and from over 700 ports around the world.

Staff at the port want better pay, as the cost-of-living crisis squeezes their incomes.

An offer of a 7 percent pay rise and a lump sum of £500 (€589) has already been accepted by the port’s workers union, which represents about 500 staff in supervisory, engineering and clerical roles. But dock workers have rejected the offer from the port operator, Hutchison Ports.

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They say it is significantly below the current inflation rate, which has now risen above 10 percent for the first time in 40 years.

“Industrial action comes just as global supply chains are starting to run more smoothly,” Chris Rogers, principal supply chain economist at freight forwarding firm Flexport, told POLITICO last week.

Given the long lead times for goods arriving from Southeast Asia, the strikes beginning now are likely to impact products ordered for the Christmas market, he pointed out.

The British Ports Association has downplayed the potential impact on supply chains, pointing out that other ports have capacity to receive more ships.

Some other ports, however, have said they will not accept Felixstowe-destined cargo in solidarity with the strikes, while others are also planning their own industrial, including the U.K.’s fourth-largest port, Liverpool’s Peel Port.