Felixstowe Port pay dispute turns bitter as second strike by dockers looms
Claim and counter-claim are being thrown around in the Felixstowe pay dispute, ahead of next ...
Despite the eight-day strike being due to end at 11pm on Sunday night, the UK port of Felixstowe has told its dockers not to report until Tuesday, meaning they will lose the opportunity to work vessels on overtime on bank holiday Monday.
Bank holiday working at the port would normally be possible with overtime, but as part of its increasingly acrimonious spat with the Unite union, the port management is refusing to work ships already alongside, or that could be alongside on Monday morning.
They include the 17,816 teu Evelyn Maersk – operating on 2M’s AE7/Condor loop, which has UK-bound cargo aboard from the AE6/Lion loop, discharged from the 19,224 teu MSC Sveva at Le Havre on Monday – and is due to berth at Felixstowe at 7am on the bank holiday.
Shippers with cargo on the MSC Sveva were pleasantly surprised that the relay operation had been prompt, as many feared they would see their containers stranded.
“When we heard the vessel was discharging our containers at Le Havre we were worried they could be stuck out there for weeks, as has happened in the past at other ports,” a Felixstowe-based forwarder told The Loadstar.
But, unless the port of Felixstowe changes its tune on overtime, which could see some 2,500 boxes discharged, he will have to wait another 24 hours before he can get his container released.
However, the landside congestion that plagued Felixstowe for months during the peak periods of demand is much reduced, and haulage availability is also good, so his clients should be able to get their products reasonably promptly after they are discharged from the vessel and cleared from customs.
Meanwhile, Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, visited the picket line at Felixstowe’s Dock Gate 1 this morning to drum up support for the industrial action, mid-way through the stoppage.
The rhetoric between the union and the port has increased significantly, with Ms Graham accusing port owner Hutchison of facilitating “a bonanza for the shareholders and a pay cut for the workers”, and threatening industrial action at the port could continue until Christmas.
In response, the port fired back, accusing the union of being undemocratic and “promoting a national agenda at the expense of many of our employees”.
The general feeling of The Loadstar’s contacts at Felixstowe is that dockers are being used as “pawns” in the quarrel between the two sides, with several saying the port’s CEO, Clemence Cheng, and his executive team should take a more front-line role in settling the dispute.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the long-running wage dispute between the ver.di union’s 12,000 members and the port employers, the Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS), was resolved yesterday as an agreement was reached on a 9.4% pay increase from 1 July for the container sector, followed by a further 4.4% from 1 June next year.
Moreover, if inflation climbs higher than the two-tier pay rise a clause in the agreement reached between ver.di and ZDS provides an inflation provision “that compensates for a price increase of up to 5.5%”.
On Monday, The Loadstar‘s Mike Wackett was a guest on TV’s GB News to offer his expert view of the effects of the strike