Port strike could cause ‘huge disruption’ to supply chain

A trade body and union have warned that planned strike action at the Port of Felixstowe could worsen supply-chain issues later this year.

The Suffolk port accounts for a third of all freight trade that comes into the UK via containers.

Unite union members have backed strike action next month as part of a rejection of a 5 per cent pay increase that was offered by owner and operator Hutchison Ports UK.

Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard warned a strike would create “huge disruption” across the UK supply chain.

He added that strike dates had yet to be announced and called on Hutchison to negotiate further.

Construction Products Association deputy chief executive Jeff May said the proposed strike was a new factor in a series of issues that have affected the port.

May said: “Felixstowe has struggled to get on top of a wide range of issues impacting deliveries for several years now.

“Since 2021, our members have responded by increasingly relying on other ports, such as Tilbury. And, while some sectors such as bathroom and electrical goods continue to suffer serious problems with shipping en route, in general, the issues around availability of imported products have improved from a year ago.”

Despite this, May added: “Any strike action would exacerbate existing strains on the construction supply chain going into [the] second half of the year, when space for deliveries of construction products competes with other consumer goods for the holiday season.”

In October 2021, the lead times for some construction materials lengthened as a result of a massive backlog at Felixstowe. It was also one of the UK ports hit by huge congestion in late 2020, when coronavirus-related imports combined with COVID-secure measures led to throughput difficulties at terminals.

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