LONDON: Workers at Britain’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, on Sunday began an eight-day strike over pay, in the latest industrial action as decades-high inflation intensifies the country’s cost-of-living crisis.
Nearly 2,000 unionised employees at the port in eastern England, including crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores, started their walkout Sunday morning in the first strike at Felixstowe since 1989.
It comes amid stoppages over pay and working conditions across various UK industries, with railway workers just the latest to strike on Thursday and Saturday this week.
Postal workers plan a four-day strike later this month, Telecoms giant BT will face its first stoppage in decades while Amazon warehouse staff, criminal lawyers and refuse collectors are among the others staging walkouts.
Pay hike demands are driven by inflation, which hit a 40-year-high above 10 percent last month, as soaring food and energy prices hurt millions.
The Bank of England has forecast it will top 13 percent this year, tipping the British economy into a deep and long recession.
The global impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and food prices, and, to a lesser extent, post-Brexit trade frictions are blamed for the UK’s spiralling cost of living.
The Unite union representing the striking Felixstowe staff said the stoppage will have a big impact at the port, which handles around four million containers a year from 2,000 ships.
The union wants pay rises for its members at or near inflation, arguing the docks are “enormously profitable”.
“They can give Felixstowe workers a decent pay raise,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who added that parent company, CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, handed out nearly 100 million ($121 million) to shareholders in 2020.
The Port of Felixstowe said in a statement that it was “disappointed” the walkout had gone ahead and called its offer of salary increases of on average 8 percent “fair”.
“The port provides secure and well-paid employment and there will be no winners from this unnecessary industrial action,” it added.