Striking port workers in Felixstowe have spoken about how rising costs have forced them to consider which supermarkets they visit and adapt their lifestyle and diet to cut expenditure.

The 1,900 dockers began an eight-day walkout on Sunday after rejecting the port’s offer of a 7% pay rise with an additional £500.

Their union Unite is calling for an increase in wages of between 7% and 12.3% to more closely reflect the rate of inflation, although a separate branch of the union, representing 500 management and clerical workers, voted to accept the port’s pay offer.

East Anglian Daily Times: Engineer Stefan Long said his family had adjusted their lifestyle to cope with spiralling inflationEngineer Stefan Long said his family had adjusted their lifestyle to cope with spiralling inflation (Image: Archant)

Engineer Stefan Long, 33, from Ipswich, has worked at the port for 17 years and said his monthly gas and electric bill had risen from £80 a month to £220 a month since prices started to rocket following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

The father-of-two said the inflationary pressures had led him to consider where he shopped for bread, eggs and milk, while his family, including his wife who is a teacher, had changed to a more "affordable" diet to make ends meet.

“We are not heavy users of energy. I do shift work and my wife’s a teacher and so we are not at home a lot of the time.

“But when I think of the cost of energy, both my wife and I are employed and I think of the two or three person households that aren’t in that position,” Mr Long said.

East Anglian Daily Times: Union convenor Phil Pemberton called on the port to pay the workers what they believe they are worthUnion convenor Phil Pemberton called on the port to pay the workers what they believe they are worth (Image: Archant)

Union convenor Phil Pemberton said his utility bills had tripled, but said he was "lucky" his children had left home and he had savings he could fall back on.

He added: “We are not militant. This isn’t political. This is purely about a company that has generated the profits it has giving the workers a pay rise that they believe they are worth.”

Business group the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said firms in the county had built up stock to enable them to cope with disruptions to supply during the strike, but warned that these contingency measures would be tested should the dispute continue beyond eight days.

Paul Simon, head of strategic affairs and communications with the Chamber, said: “On behalf of our members and indeed the wider business community in the county, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce urges both sides in the dispute to resume meaningful face-to-face negotiations.

“A sustainable and long-term settlement is essential to guaranteeing the ongoing confidence that businesses have built up over the decades in the Port of Felixstowe as the country’s key international trade gateway.”

A port spokesperson reacted after Unite general secretary Sharon Graham visited the picket line on Wednesday.

He said: “A lot of our employees feel let down by Unite. Many want to work and are angry that they have not been allowed to vote on the latest company offer.

"Unite say they are a democratic union but their words don’t match their deeds and they are promoting a national agenda at the expense of many of our employees.

"The port has offered a deal worth 8.1% to 9.6% this year. The strike imposed on them by Unite is an effective pay cut of 2.2%. Many employees have told us they want to come to work but feel too uncomfortable to do so.