Felixstowe port is the largest in the country, accounting for 13,000 tonnes of cargo annually © Photo by: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Felixstowe port is the largest in the country, accounting for 13,000 tonnes of cargo annually © Photo by: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Retailers 'to feel greatest impact' after strike confirmed for Felixstowe

9 August 2022

Retailers including Tesco and John Lewis are “likely to fee the greatest impact after eight days of strike action was confirmed for the UK's largest port.

Over 1,900 workers will begin strike action on Sunday 21 August, ending on Monday 29 August, after pay talks broke down.

Tony Pelli, practice director for security and resilience at the British Standards Institute, told Supply Management the strike could lead to shortages and higher prices for consumers.

“[Felixstowe port] is especially critical because the UK imports around 50% of their food, and perishable items may expire if there are delays due to the strike. Ocean carriers may attempt to divert to other UK ports (or even ports on the European mainland, such as Rotterdam), creating congestion there as well,” he said.

“UK grocer/retailers such as Tesco, Asda, John Lewis, and M&S are likely to feel the greatest impact from the strike. Goods that retailers are hoping to sell for the holidays have likely already hit UK docks, so these may be impacted as well – July-August is a key time for shipping of these types of products. 

“This could also mean higher prices for consumers, adding to existing inflation concerns, if there are shortages… Though the strike is set to last eight days, we would expect to see impacts into September, as the port would then need to clear freight that backed up during the strike.”

ACAS talks failed on Monday after the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company's 7% pay offer was rejected. RPI is currently 11.8%. Industrial relations were already strained after workers received a 1.4% increase last year.

Bobby Morton, national officer for docks at Unite, said: “Strike action will cause huge disruption and will generate massive shockwaves throughout the UK’s supply chain, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making. It has had every opportunity make our members a fair offer but has chosen not to do so. Felixstowe needs to stop prevaricating and make a pay offer which meets our members’ expectations.”

Felixstowe port handles 48% of the UK’s container cargo. It is the largest in the country capable of handling the largest container ships. It accounts for around 13,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

A port spokesperson told SM: “We are disappointed and regret that despite our best efforts we have still been unable to reach an agreement with the hourly branch of Unite. During talks yesterday [Monday 8 August] the port further improved its position offering a £500 lump sum in addition to 7%. The staff branch of Unite and the Police Federation of Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company have agreed to put a similar offer to their members. 

“In contrast, the hourly branch of Unite has again rejected the port’s improved position and refused to put it to its members. We urge them to consult their members on the latest offer as soon as possible. There will be no winners from a strike which will only result in their members losing money they would otherwise have earned. Our focus has been to find a solution that works for our employees and protects the future success of the port. The union has rejected the company’s offer to meet again.”

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