Felixstowe: Talks bid to avert strike action at port

Port of felixstowe

Port of felixstowe - Credit: Archant

Talks are set to take place between management and union officials at Britain’s biggest container terminal after it is understood portworkers voted for strike action.

Hutchison Ports, which owns the Port of Felixstowe, and members of the Unite union are in dispute over proposed changes to workers’ terms and conditions, including a reduction in bonus payments.

A postal ballot was held putting forward the prospect of industrial action – and it is understood workers have voted to sanction a strike if the dispute cannot be resolved.

Neither side has been prepared to comment on the outcome of the vote.

Three years ago, a pay row rumbled on for several months and workers voted for strike action after rejecting a 1.5% pay rise and an extra £500 a head.

After experts from arbitration service ACAS were called in to help settle the dispute, port bosses slightly increased their offer and reintroduced bonuses.

No strike action was taken – with workers using the vote to send a clear message to bosses about their discontent.

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Management will be hoping that is the case this time and that negotiations can now take place to settle the row.

In an open letter to colleagues on the Felixstowe Dockers Blogspot website before the vote, union convenor Phil Pemberton urged members to “use your vote to protect our terms and conditions”.

Hutchison Ports had offered to suspend the changes to terms and conditions for a short period of negotiations.

But Mr Pemberton said options put forward by the company to reduce bonus payments now with the possibility of further reductions ahead was “totally unacceptable” to the union.

He said: “Contrary to the company’s opinion the union are committed to ensuring the continued success of the port and our members.

“However, I would like the workforce to be treated with respect and if there is a need for change that it is negotiated and agreed and never imposed.”

He also voiced concern that the union is no longer asked to countersign policies or risk assessments.

A spokesman for Hutchison Ports UK said the company would not be commenting on the matter. No-one was available from Unite.