Strikes at major UK ports threaten further supply chain

By August 30, delays had peaked with containers spending an average of 9.9 days at the terminal, an 87 per cent increase.

London: Further strikes are scheduled for late September at some of the UK’s main container ports over pay disputes, and these industrial actions are expected to deal a fresh blow to Europe’s already overstretched supply chains.

The strikes started on September 19 when more than 560 port operatives and maintenance engineers employed by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) in Liverpool launched a two-week walk-out after they had rejected a 8.3 per cent pay rise offer and are demanding 20 per cent, Xinhua news agency reported.

In light of the high inflation rate, the offer equals a real-terms pay cut, according to Unite, one of the largest trade unions in the UK.

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Rising prices in the UK have increased financial pressure on households. The country’s consumer price index (CPI) rose by 9.9 per cent in the 12 months to August, as food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose by 13.1 per cent.

Peel Ports Group, which owns the MDHC, said it was “disappointed”.

“This is bad news for our employees, families and other local employers,” said David Huck, the group’s chief operating officer (COO), “We fully recognise our colleagues’ concerns on the cost-of-living crisis.”

The 8.3 per cent pay hike offer came coupled with a one-off payment of 750 pounds ($850) for each container operative at the port, and the group urged the union to settle the dispute at the negotiating table.

This strike would overlap with another one at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk.

A fresh walkout has been announced at the busiest container port in the UK after workers overwhelmingly rejected the management’s attempt to conclude a pay deal, according to Unite.

The labour action, scheduled between September 27 and early October, will come after more than 1,900 Unite members staged an eight-day strike in late August at Felixstowe over the pay dispute.

Despite the strike at its container operations, the Peel Ports Group said other Liverpool operations remain unaffected.

Unite has however warned that the latest strike action “will severely disrupt both shipping and road transport in Liverpool and the surrounding areas”.

The Port of Liverpool, one of the UK’s busiest, employs 845 people in the containers division.

The docks handled about 525,000 containers in 2021.

According to logistics company Flexport, the overlapping strike action will make the potential for disruption and congestion “very real”.

The previous walkout at Felixstowe in late August had already caused a significant increase in the number of days containers spent at the terminal, Glenn Koepke, general manager of network collaboration at the supply chain intelligence platform FourKites, said on Wednesday.

When the strike began on August 21, all ocean shipments at Felixstowe had been at the terminal for 5.3 days on average, according to FourKites data.

By August 30, delays had peaked with containers spending an average of 9.9 days at the terminal, an 87 per cent increase.

Delays at Felixstowe cleared up by September 10, and during that time a few major European ports saw port congestion tick up slightly, Koepke said.

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