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Felixstowe: Strike threat at UK’s largest container port

PortandTerminal.com, December 14, 2019

Port engineers prepare to strike as union hits back over outsourcing plans. Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union said that it would be informing the employer of strike dates in the next few days.

FELIXSTOWE, ENGLAND – More than 110 engineers, who are employed by the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, with 98% in favour. They unanimously voted for industrial action short of a strike over plans to transfer a number of them to Universal Tyres.

The union Unite claimed the Port of Felixstowe is transferring engineering jobs to cut costs, and fear it is “the thin end of the wedge”. “The crux of this dispute is that our engineering members consider that the identity of their employer is a condition of their employment contract and they do not want that being changed unilaterally,” said a union official.

One worker said an industrial dispute would be “catastrophic”, given local economic reliance on England’s largest port and a major employer in the region.

“If the employer’s outsourcing agenda continues to gather momentum, we will have no hesitation in balloting the rest of our 1,800 members at the port for industrial action, which will have grave implications for Felixstowe’s operations in a competitive environment.”

Union Unite, which is representing the workers, said the dispute was over the threat they say is faced by some of them that they will have to transfer to the outside company.

READ: Protestors block ports across France

There are about 1,900 Unite members at the Port of Felixstowe – which is the UK’s busiest container port – including the 116 engineers.

At the current time, only the tire-fitting operation faces being transferred, the union said, but it fears that this could be the start of a trend.

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