Supply chains across the UK face disruption this week as an eight-day walk out began at the country’s busiest container port.
More than 1,900 members of the Unite union began industrial action at Felixstowe on Sunday [21 August] in a dispute over pay. The port handles 40% of the UK’s container trade, equivalent to four million containers annually.
The port handles imports from Asia including white goods such as fridges, freezers, and washing machines; electrical items such as televisions and laptops; as well as clothing, shoes and accessories and even furniture.
Analytics firm The Russell Group has predicted the strike could cost as much as $800m (£675m) of trade. However, some industry experts have stressed the resilience of the UK’s logistics industry.
Natalie Chapman, head of policy, South, Logistics UK, said the strike was unlikely to have a noticeable impact on consumers as most of the freight that supplies retailers moves through the Port of Dover.
She explained: “It is certainly far from ideal . . . and it will cause some challenges but the supply chain is used to having to deal with challenges. The longer things go on, the more serious the impacts could potentially be. If there were further strikes there would be concern.”
Management of the Suffolk-based port said it had put contingencies in place to try to continue operating but warned that daily throughput would depend on how many workers turned up. Strike action will continue until 29 August, and further action in September has not been ruled out.
This latest industrial action follows weeks of rail disruption and the news that Royal Mail will strike around the August bank holiday.