Port of Felixstowe CEO accuses union of intimidation

Published:
7:30 AM September 22, 2022



Updated:
2:02 PM September 22, 2022

A Port of Felixstowe chief has accused a union of intimidating workers who choose not to take part in industrial action.

In a letter sent to this newspaper by port CEO, Clemence Cheng, it was claimed: “Our employees are telling us that they do not wish to strike but are afraid of intimidation if they turn up for work on strike days.

“In a modern democratic society this is totally unacceptable.

“Everyone has a right to strike but also has a right to work if they choose to.”

A source from inside Unite the Union responded to these claims: “We are absolutely against all forms of intimidation.

“If the port have any examples, we would ask them to share.

“If not, they must stop make these unfounded, broad sweeping statements that have no basis.”

The news comes as Unite the Union announce a second wave of strikes at the port over a long-running pay dispute.

Last month, members voted in favor of industrial action by a majority of 92%, with the union holding out for a 10% pay increase.

The second round of strikes will begin on September 27 and will last for eight days.

The walkout will clash with action taking place at the Port of Liverpool, which will run from Monday 19 September to Monday 3 October.

Mr Cheng’s letter in full can be read below.

Dear Sir / Madam

I refer to your article of 16 September (Port boss pens letter telling workers to ‘think carefully’ before striking) and the comments made on it by your readers in the online version.

After nearly 10 months of negotiation with the Unite hourly paid shop steward committee for a pay deal that is effective from 1 January 2022, we have exhausted the negotiation process and regret that we cannot reach an agreement with Unite.

We believe a pay deal of 7% plus £ 500 is a fair settlement with a reference point of 1 January 2022, when the Government official inflation index, the CPI, was at 5.4%.

We realize that 9 months without a pay increase in the current cost of living crisis is a big toll on the finances of our employees. As such we took a decision to make an interim payment of £ 500 in early Spring when the first energy price cap increase was implemented in April. Again in anticipation of the second energy price cap increase in October we decided to implement our pay offer of 7% plus £ 500, backdated to 1 January 2022, to help our employees.

The next pay rise is due 1 January 2023 and we will discuss that with Unite in the normal way.

In our opinion the strikes called by the hourly branch of Unite are totally unnecessary. The shop steward committee of the staff branch of Unite put the same pay offer of 7% plus £ 500 to their members who voted to accept it.

Our employees are telling us that they do not wish to strike but are afraid of intimidation if they turn up for work on strike days. In a modern democratic society this is totally unacceptable. Everyone has a right to strike but also has a right to work if they choose to.

I would like to make a final point. The majority of our employees are hard-working people who just want a fair days pay for a fair days work. They have been dragged into this unnecessary strike by a small minority. I am saddened to see that our employees are being labeled as greedy and selfish, when they are not. Let us not forget that during the darkest hours of the pandemic, when the whole country was in lockdown, our employees diligently reported to duty to keep the country’s supply chain moving.

I am hopeful that a great number of them will do the right thing and turn up to work during the second strike.

Clemence Cheng

CEO, Port of Felixstowe

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