Pressure on supply chains increases: strike begins in Britain's largest cargo port

The wave of strikes in Great Britain reaches the largest British container port: In Felixstowe, England, hundreds of employees stop working.

Pressure on supply chains increases: strike begins in Britain's largest cargo port

The wave of strikes in Great Britain reaches the largest British container port: In Felixstowe, England, hundreds of employees stop working. While the union is demanding higher wages because of inflation, the uprising could also cause economic problems far away from the island.

After the strikes of the past few days at the British railways, almost 2,000 workers in Felixstowe, Britain's largest cargo port, have walked down work for eight days. The port in the east of England is "extremely profitable," said the general secretary of the transport union Unite, Sharon Graham. With the cost of living rising and the company paying out significant profits to its shareholders in 2020 of just under £100m (€118m), Unite has called for "a reasonable wage increase".

The latest strikes in the UK began on Thursday. Since then, three consecutive days of strikes have paralyzed rail transport in particular. The Felixstowe strike is the next in a series of industrial action that has spanned multiple sectors to secure significant wage increases amid record inflation of around 10 percent.

Felixstowe Port officials said they were "disappointed" that Unite had not accepted their offer to call off the strike. The port operator explained that a "fair" wage increase of an average of eight and almost ten percent was offered for the lowest-paid employees.

The port regretted the impact the strike would have on "British supply chains". Strikes are an "inconvenience, not a catastrophe," a port official told the PA news agency. The supply chain has been “used to interruptions” since the corona pandemic anyway. It is the first strike since 1989 for the port in the east of England, which handles around four million containers a year.

In fact, the strike could not only put a further strain on UK supply chains. "Nearly half of UK container traffic passes through the Port of Felixstowe and 65 per cent of incoming containers," said UK trade expert Rebecca Harding. An eight-day strike, as planned from now on, means a risk for imports and exports worth around 800 million pounds (around 950 million euros) - the clothing and electronics sectors are particularly affected.

Global container traffic at sea, the lifeline of world trade, has become increasingly out of step since the outbreak of the corona pandemic two and a half years ago. Every disruption, such as lockdowns in individual ports, an accident like that of the "Ever Given" in the Suez Canal or labor disputes, throws additional sand into the gears - even if a port like Felixstowe is not a very big player in the coordinated mechanism of sea logistics on an international scale .

"One reason for the stressed logistics at sea and in the ports is the low punctuality rate of ships," said economist Vincent Stamer, who analyzes global container traffic at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW). "Additional strikes will make this situation worse - including the impending strike at Britain's largest port, Felixstowe."

In addition, logisticians also fear new warning strikes in Germany. That would be possible if the next wage round in the dispute over dock workers' wages is unsuccessful on Monday. Most recently, the Verdi union paralyzed handling at all German North Sea ports for 48 hours in mid-July.

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