An eight-day strike at the port of Felixstowe has begun and could lead to months of disruption, with retailers including John Lewis, M&S and Tesco set to be directly impacted.

Felixstowe container port

The Felixstowe strike is set to hit trade to the tune of £700m

Experts warn that the eight-day walkout at Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest container port for global trade, could impact supplies to the UK’s biggest supermarkets in the coming months.

The strike by 1,900 dockworkers is the latest in a flurry of industrial action in recent months from workers across industries ranging from the rail and London Underground to the Royal Mail and bus drivers. 

According to The Times, the Felixstowe strike is set to hit trade at the port to the tune of £700m, with shipping giant Maersk cancelling scheduled arrivals and rerouting traffic to other European ports such as Antwerp, Le Havre and London Gateway on the Thames.

Analysis by trade consultancy Russell has found that clothing and electronics components are likely to be the goods most severely impacted by the strike. Russell managing director Suki Basi said this “disruption creates ripple effects across the economy, from supply chain disruption for organisations to potentially higher prices for consumers.”

Felixstowe handles more than four million containers a year and is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port. Its dockworkers, who voted nine to one in favour of strike action, are demanding a pay rise above the 7% offered. This is due to the 12% rise in retail price inflation, as well as in recognition of their work during the pandemic when they accepted below-inflation pay settlements. 

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham said that Felixstowe and its parent company Hutchinson Ports were “massively profitable” and “fully able to pay the workforce a fair day’s pay.”

Felixstowe said: “The port regrets that Unite has walked away from pay negotiations and announced strike action from August 21 to 29. We believe the offer of 7% plus a £500 lump sum was very fair in the prevailing economic climate.” 

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